Abstract: Father Involvement during Pregnancy and Maternal Experience of Postpartum Intimate Partner Violence (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

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722P Father Involvement during Pregnancy and Maternal Experience of Postpartum Intimate Partner Violence

Tuesday, January 19, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Yu-Fu Michael Chen, PhD, Assistant Professor, Nazareth College, Rochester, NY
Courtney Olson-Chen, MD, Assistant Professor, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY
Background and Purpose: In the U.S., nearly 1 in 4 women experience physical intimate partner violence (IPV), and IPV increases during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Markers of risk are needed to target interventions and inform policies to protect and promote the health and well-being of pregnant women. While father involvement (FI) has been linked to reductions in several adverse pregnancy outcomes including preterm birth and fetal growth restriction, the influence of FI on maternal experience of IPV remains poorly understood. The goal of our study was to investigate the association between FI during pregnancy and maternal experience of physical IPV during the 1-year postpartum period.

Methods: Existing data from the baseline and 1-year waves of the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study were analyzed in this study. The analytic sample included 1,546 mother-child dyads, with maternal mean age of 23.7 years, 49.2% non-Hispanic black, and 38.4% with less than high school education. Approximately 4% of mothers reported some experience of postpartum physical IPV in the 1-year wave.

Maternal experience of physical IPV at 1-year was assessed using 3 items from the Conflict Tactics Scale. Mothers were asked how often they were slapped/kicked, hit/struck with object, and sexually coerced by the father. These responses were recoded to create a composite dichotomous dependent variable of any experience vs. no experience of postpartum physical IPV from the father.

FI was measured using 5 dichotomous items collected from mothers’ survey responses: whether father provided financial and/or instrumental support (e.g., transportation, chores) or visited the hospital during pregnancy, whether the baby would have the father’s surname, and whether the father was listed on the birth certificate. Each item was used as the primary predictor to estimate separate analytical models.

Chi-square tests were first performed to evaluate the unadjusted association between FI and maternal experience of physical IPV. Following bivariate analyses, multivariate logistic regression models with robust standard errors were used to estimate the target FI-IPV association, adjusting for parental age, educational attainment, insurance coverage, household poverty level, and prior history of IPV.

Results: Bivariate analyses revealed that paternal visits to the hospital during pregnancy (OR=.43, 95%CI=.24-.73, p=.002) and provision of instrumental support (OR=.41, 95%CI=.22-.81, p=.009) were negatively associated with postpartum physical IPV. In multivariate analyses, however, only hospital visits remained significant (AOR=.38, 95%CI=.18-.81, p=.012). Mothers who reported being visited by the father during pregnancy hospitalization had a 62% reduction in the relative odds of experiencing postpartum physical IPV when compared to mothers with no paternal hospital visits. Deep household poverty and prior history of IPV were both associated with increased odds of postpartum physical IPV.

Conclusion and Implications: Our results indicate that FI during pregnancy, specifically visiting mothers during pregnancy hospital stays, is linked to decreased risk of mothers experiencing physical IPV during the 1-year postpartum period. Pregnant women lacking paternal engagement, particularly during hospitalization, may benefit from additional support. Policies and programs that incentivize FI during pregnancy and “responsible fatherhood” could contribute to reducing the likelihood of mothers’ experience of postpartum IPV.