Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

15638 The Impact of Emotional and Physical Violence During Pregnancy On Maternal and Child Health

Sunday, January 15, 2012: 8:45 AM
Constitution C (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Sarah McMahon, PhD, Assistant Professor/Associate Director, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Chien-Chung Huang, Associate Professor, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Paul Boxer, PhD, Assistant Professor, Rutgers University-Newark, Newark, NJ
Judy L. Postmus, PhD, Associate Professor, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Purpose Intimate partner violence (IPV) during pregnancy is increasingly recognized as having a negative impact on the health and mental health of both the mother and her unborn child (Taylor & Nabors, 2009). Given research illuminating the intergenerational transmission of aggressive behavior as well as studies highlighting the long-term impact of aversive familial experiences during early/middle childhood, it is important to examine the potential enduring effects of violence during pregnancy.

More information is needed to determine the role of psychological and physical abuse independently as well as cumulatively. The purpose of this study is to assess the impact of both physical and psychological abuse during pregnancy on maternal and child health and mental health outcomes at one year post-birth.

Methods The data (N = 3,961) come from the first and second waves of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. The data were collected in 20 U.S. cities with populations over 200,000 via stratified random sampling.

Regression analyses were used to assess the effects of the independent variables (violence during pregnancy) on dependent variables (mother's physical health, mother's depression, child's physical health, child's temperament). For mother's depression, logit regression was used and for the other analyses, separate OLS regressions were employed.

Demographic variables examined in the analysis included race/ethnicity, education level, age, relationship status with child's father, first birth, family background, and child's gender.

Results About 6% of mothers experienced physical abuse and 29% experienced emotional abuse during pregnancy. Emotional abuse during pregnancy significantly and negatively affected mother's health, but physical abuse was nonsignificant. Both physical and emotional abuse during pregnancy significantly increased the likelihood of maternal depression at Year 1.

For child's overall health, both physical and emotional abuse during pregnancy were significant and negative predictors. Emotional abuse during pregnancy also significantly affected child temperament, although physical abuse did not.

The joint effect of physical and emotional abuse during pregnancy was also explored and associated with worse maternal overall health, maternal depression, and overall child health.

Implications Our results indicate an alarming amount of abuse experienced by women who are pregnant, underscoring the need for increased awareness and implementation of effective screening and intervention techniques. Our results confirm other findings that IPV during pregnancy has a negative impact on both the mother and child, and we extend these findings by including the child's health at one year post partum.

We found that emotional abuse significantly contributes to poor maternal and child health outcomes on its own, and not just coupled with physical abuse. Given the dearth of information on emotional abuse within the literature and practice settings, additional research is needed to unpack its relationship to short and long term health of women and their children.

Charles, P., & Perreira, K. M. (2007). Intimate partner violence during pregnancy and 1- year post-partum. Journal of Family Violence, 22, 609-619. Taylor, R., & Nabors, E. L. (2009). Pink or blue black and blue? Examining pregnancy as a predictor of intimate partner violence and femicide. Violence Against Women, 15(11), 1273-1293. doi:10.1177/1077801209346714