Report Finds that Women are at an Increased Risk for Domestic Violence following Pregnancy
Tuesday, August 2, 2005 2:55 PM

The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children conducted a study analyzing the rates of domestic violence reported during and after pregnancy. The report, published in the International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that the majority of women who reported victimization during pregnancy had been abused prior to pregnancy. The study also found that in the months following pregnancy a greater number of women reported abuse than during pregnancy. Because the study lacked data on the rates of domestic violence prior to pregnancy researchers were unable to determine whether pregnancy itself carried a greater risk of violence.

Participating mothers received questionnaires at 18 weeks of gestation, 8 weeks, 8 months, 21 months and 33 months postpartum and were encouraged to answer the questions by themselves. The questionnaires included questions such as “your partner was physically cruel to you” or “your partner was emotionally cruel to you.” While 13,799 pregnant mothers with due dates between April 1991 and December 1992 agreed to participate, only 7,591 of the women managed to complete all five questionnaires.

The study found that a greater number of women reported receiving emotional or physical abuse from their intimate partner at 8 months and 33 months following pregnancy rather than during pregnancy.

Researchers also identified a number of family adversity factors and documented the impact these factors had on the prevalence of domestic violence. Such adversity factors included the age of the mother when her first child was born, inadequate housing, poor education, financial difficulty, lack of social or emotional support, partner cruelty, depression, substance abuse, and criminal history. The study found the number of adversities had a direct effect on the possibility that women would experience emotional or physical abuse during and after pregnancy; as the number of adversities increased so did the potential for abuse by the time the child reached 33 months. Overall, 1% of the participants reported domestic violence during pregnancy, and 3% reported domestic violence three years later.

Compiled from:  “Domestic violence risk during and after pregnancy: findings from a British longitudinal study.” BJOG, (August 2005).