Undoing the ‘Nordic Paradox’: Factors affecting rates of disclosed violence against women across the EU

Anne Laure Humbert, Sofia Strid, Jeff Hearn, Dag Balkmar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Measuring violence against women raises methodological questions, as well as the wider question of how to understand violence and locate it in relation to a societal context. This is all the more relevant given that measurement of violence against women in the EU has made an interesting phenomenon apparent, the so-called ‘Nordic Paradox’, whereby prevalence is higher in more gender equal countries. This article examines this phenomenon by exploring a range of factors – methodological, demographic and societal – to contextualise disclosed levels of violence. The analysis makes use of a multilevel analytic approach to take into account how macro and micro levels contribute to the prevalence of violence. The intercepts are then used to illustrate how taking these into account might provide an alternative ranking of levels of violence against women in EU countries. The results show that the ‘Nordic Paradox’ disappears – and can be undone – when factors at individual and country levels are considered. We conclude that the ‘Nordic Paradox’ cannot be understood independently from a wider pattern of violence in society, and should be seen as connected and co-constituted in specific formations, domains or regimes of violence. Our results show that the use of multi-level models can provide new insights into the factors that may be related to disclosed prevalence of violence against women. This can generate a better understanding of how violence against women functions as a system, and in turn inform better policy responses.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0249693
Number of pages24
JournalPLoS One
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 5 May 2021


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