Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Violence: Applying Best Practice Guidelines

Select Populations and IPV/DV

Pregnancy and IPV/DV

Pregnancy can be a vulnerable time for victims of IPV/DV. Fifty to 70 % of women who were abused prior to pregnancy are also abused during pregnancy. Among pregnant teens, 26% reported that they were abused by their boyfriends during pregnancy; almost half reported that the abuse began or intensified prior to the pregnancy (NCADV, nd,b). Murder is the second leading cause of injury-related death for pregnant women (31%), after car accidents (NCADV, nd.b).

According to The Family Violence Prevention Fund (2004a), 15.9 percent of pregnant women are victims of IPV/DV; among adolescents, the rate of victimization rises to 21.7 percent.

The consequences for women who were victimized during pregnancy, as well as their infants, include (NCADV, nd,b; Jasinski, 2004; Gazmarian, et al., 2000):

  • Late entry into prenatal care;
  • Low birth weight babies;
  • Anemia;
  • Infections;
  • Premature labor;
  • Unhealthy maternal behaviors (such as smoking, drinking, drug use, etc.);
  • Fetal trauma;
  • Sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV-1;
  • Urinary tract-infections;
  • Substance abuse;
  • Depression;
  • Post-partum depression; and
  • Other mental health conditions.

It is recommended that all pregnant women be screened for the presence of IPV/DV (Certain, et al., 2008; ACOG, 2006).

Children and IPV/DV

According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund (2004a) the estimates of the numbers of children who are exposed to intimate partner violence vary greatly, from 3.3 million to ten million children per year. The number varies depending on the specific definitions of witnessing violence, the source of interview and the age of child included in the survey. In 30-60% of homes where IPV/DV is occurring, children are also being abused.

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (nd) witnessing violence between one's parents or caretakers is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next. Boys who witness IPV/DV are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.

There are many studies that have identified the negative impact of IPV/DV on children (FVPF, 2004a). Generally, children under five, and adolescents have the highest incidence of being victimized.

Post traumatic stress disorder is a response that children have to IPV/DV, particularly in situations of chronic violence. One study reported that exposure to IPV/DV, without having directly been abused, was enough to cause significant symptoms in 85% of children (FVPF, 2004a).

Behavioral and physical problems can result from witnessing IPV/DV. Children have a unique experience in relation to IPV/DV. These include (FVPF, 2004a, KBN, n.d.):

  • Feeling responsible for the abuse;
  • Constant anxiety;
  • Grief;
  • Guilt for not stopping the abuse;
  • Ambivalence;
  • Fear of abandonment;
  • Need for excessive adult attention;
  • Fear of physical harm to themselves;
  • Embarrassment;
  • Worry about the future;
  • Violence towards peers;
  • Academic and social problems at school;
  • Drug and alcohol abuse;
  • Truancy;
  • Running away from home;
  • Sexual assault of other children;
  • Prostitution;
  • Hypervigilance;
  • Poor concentration and distractibility;
  • Chronic somatic complaints;
  • Depression;
  • Sleep difficulties;
  • Attempted suicide.

IPV/DV impacts children differently, depending on developmental stage. The effects of IPV/DV on toddlers and preschool children include:

  • More aggressive than other children or more withdrawn than other children;
  • Impaired cognitive abilities;
  • Delays in verbal development;
  • Poor motor abilities;
  • General fearfulness, anxiety;
  • Stomachaches;
  • Nightmares;
  • Lack of bowel and bladder control over 3 years old;
  • Lack of confidence to begin new tasks.

The effects of IPV/DV on the school age child include:

  • Poor grades, or are in special classes;
  • Failure of one or more grade levels;
  • Poor social skills;
  • Low self-esteem;
  • General aggressiveness;
  • Violent outbursts of anger;
  • Bullying or withdrawn, dependent behavior;
  • Bedwetting;
  • Nightmares;
  • Digestive problems, ulcers;
  • Headaches (not related to eye strain or sinuses).

The effects of IPV/DV on adolescents include:

  • Poor grades, failure in school, quits school;
  • Low self-esteem;
  • Refuses to bring friends home;
  • Stays away from home or feels responsible to take care of home and mother;
  • Runs away;
  • Violent outbursts of anger, destroying property;
  • Poor judgment, irresponsible decision making;
  • Unable to communicate feelings;
  • Immaturity;
  • Withdrawn, few friends;
  • Nightmares;
  • Ulcers, digestive problems;
  • Bedwetting;
  • Headaches;
  • Severe acne;
  • Males hitting their dates/partners;
  • Females being hit by their dates/partners;
  • Joins in on beatings of mother.

In homes where IPV/DV occurs, children learn that violence is a method of problem solving in interpersonal relationships. They also learn that in "loving" relationships, violence is a given.

Continue on to Select Populations and IPV/DV, Con't.