Methods: This study utilizes longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study to test the above hypotheses. The main independent variable, mother’s IPV victimization, was measured by mothers’ physical and emotional victimization during pregnancy. Maternal depression symptoms were measured using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview - Short Form. Physical punishment was measured by mothers’ involvement in five parenting behaviors. Bullying victimization was measured using four items adopted from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, Child Development Supplement III (PSID-CDS-III). Five items from the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) were used to measure adolescent depression symptoms. All information was self-reported and the final analytic sample was 2,065. We conducted Structural Equation Modeling analyses to test our hypotheses.
Results: Consistent with our hypotheses, the findings indicate that mothers who were victims of IPV during pregnancy were more likely to have depression symptoms when children turned 3, and material depression symptoms could directly predict children’s later depression symptoms at age 15. Meanwhile, maternal depression symptoms could indirectly increase adolescent depression symptoms through physical punishment at age 5 and children’s bullying victimization at age 9.
Conclusions and Implications: This study reveals that IPV experience during pregnancy increased mothers’ depression symptoms during their children’s early childhood. Maternal depression symptoms indirectly predicted children’s depression symptoms in adolescence through physical punishment and children’s peer bullying victimization. Meanwhile, maternal depression symptoms also had its own direct and positive effect towards children’s later depression symptoms. These findings call for universal and comprehensive IPV screening tools for pregnant women. At the same time, practice and policy should avoid contextualizing mothers as the perpetrators of child maltreatment; instead, trauma-informed parenting education should be provided to encourage healthier parenting behaviors. School- and community-based interventions for children may also be another avenue by which to intervene.