JOURNAL ARTICLE

Impact of current and past intimate partner violence on maternal mental health and behaviour at 2 years after childbirth: evidence from the Pacific Islands Families Study

Wanzhen Gao, Janis Paterson, Max Abbott, Sarnia Carter, Leon Iusitini, Gerhard McDonald-Sundborn
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 2010, 44 (2): 174-82
20113306

OBJECTIVE: The present study examined the association between maternal intimate partner violence (IPV) at 6 weeks and 24 months postpartum and maternal health problems in a cohort of Pacific families with 2-year-old children in New Zealand.

METHODS: Data were gathered from the Pacific Islands Families Study. Mothers of a cohort of Pacific infants born in Auckland, New Zealand during 2000 were interviewed when the children were 6 weeks and 24 months of age. There were 828 mothers cohabiting in married or de facto partnerships who completed measures of IPV, mental health, and health-related behaviour such as smoking and high-risk alcohol use at both data points. The main statistical method used was logistic regression analysis.

RESULTS: Compared to mothers who did not experience physical violence at either data point, the odds of reporting psychological distress were 2.42 (95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.07-5.44) for those experiencing physical violence at 6 weeks only, 3.47 (95%CI = 1.75-6.86) for those experiencing physical violence at 24 months only, and 3.84 (95%CI = 1.78-8.30) for those experiencing physical violence at both data points after controlling for sociodemographic factors. Mothers experiencing verbal aggression or physical violence at both data points were more likely to report smoking or high-risk alcohol use at 24 months than those who did not, but the associations were no longer significant after controlling for sociodemographic factors.

CONCLUSION: Being a victim of intimate partner physical violence at any time (past, recent and repeated) may contribute to an increase in maternal psychological distress. Health-related behaviours such as smoking and high-risk alcohol use at 24 months postpartum may to some degree be attributable to repeated victimization of physical violence and verbal aggression, but the relationships are not convincing and deserve further research in longitudinal studies.

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