BACKGROUND: The term “intimate partner violence” (IPV) encompasses physical, sexual and psychological violence, or any combination of these acts, and globally is the most common type of violence against women. This study aims to examine the lifetime prevalence of different types of intimate partner violence (IPV) among Malawi women ages 15 to 49, and its association with age, education, and living in rural versus urban areas. METHODS: Data was obtained from a cross-sectional study of data as part of the 2004 Malawi Demographic and Health Survey. Women were eligible for the study if they met the following criteria: 1) lived in one of the 15,041 households randomly selected from 522 rural and urban clusters located in 10 large districts of Malawi; 2) were married or cohabitating; and 3) were between the ages of 15 and 49 years. Consenting, eligible women responded to a comprehensive questionnaire covering demographic factors, health issues, as well as items related to physical, emotional and sexual IPV. To assess bivariate associations, chi-squared tests and multivariate logistic regressions were conducted. RESULTS: Among the 8291 respondents, 13% reported emotional violence; 20% reported being pushed, shaken, slapped or punched; 3% reported experiencing severe violence, such as being strangled or burned, threatened with a knife, gun or with another weapon; and 13% reported sexual violence. Data showed women ages 15 to 19 were significantly less likely to report emotional IPV, women ages 25 to 29 were significantly more likely to report being pushed or shaken, slapped or punched (OR 1.35; CI: 1.05-1.73), and women ages 30 to 34 were significantly more likely to report sexual IPV, compared to women ages 45 to 49 (OR 1.40; CI: 1.03-1.90). Finally, women who had no ability to read were less likely to report sexual IPV than their counterparts who could read a full sentence (OR 0.76; CI: 0.66-0.87). CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of different types of IPV in Malawi appears slightly lower than that reported for other countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Further studies are needed to assess the attitudes and behaviors of Malawi women towards acceptability and justification of IPV as well as their willingness to disclose it.