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updated 4/26/2013 8:50:43 AM ET 2013-04-26T12:50:43

Around the world, domestic violence has become much less socially acceptable, new research suggests.

Views on domestic violence changed dramatically since 2003 in 26 middle- and low-income countries across the world, according to a study detailed in the April issue of the journal American Sociological Review. Half of the countries surveyed were in sub-Saharan Africa.

In Nigeria, for instance, 65 percent of men and 52 percent of women rejected domestic violence in 2008, compared with just 48 percent and 33 percent five years earlier.

Still, the data, which were collected by the United States Agency for International Development  (USAID) from hundreds of thousands of people, shows that violence against women is still widely accepted. And in two countries — Indonesia and Madagascar — tolerance for domestic violence actually increased.

The survey asked people how justified men were in beating wives for things such as going out without letting her husband know, neglecting the children, arguing with her husband, refusing sex or burning food.

Unsurprisingly, those who live in urban areas and had more education were likelier to reject wife beating. Access to media such as television or newspapers also increased disapproval for domestic violence.

Interestingly, in 11 of 15 countries, men were more likely to reject domestic violence than women.

The attitude adjustments were found across societies.

"Often it's the case that social change starts with younger people," said study co-author Rachael Pierotti, a graduate student at the University of Michigan, in a statement. "But in this case, people of all ages became more rejecting of domestic violence."

Follow Tia Ghose on Twitter@tiaghose. Follow LiveScience@livescience,Facebook &Google+. Original article on LiveScience.com.

© 2012 LiveScience.com. All rights reserved.

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