Intimate Partner Violence in Pregnancy Term Paper

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Intimate Partner Violence in Pregnancy

Intimate Partner Violence during Pregnancy

It is a socially unconscionable and truly terrible reality that many women in America are subjected to physical violence and other forms of emotional and psychological abuse during their pregnancy. it's enough of an injustice that any woman should be physically abused by an intimate partner at any time; but the nine-month period in a woman's life when she is pregnant is psychologically a very sensitive, important time for her; the notion of abuse being visited upon her by her partner shows his cowardice, cruelty, and besides being a felony, is brutally unfair.

According to a study conducted by Michigan State University (Huth-Bocks, et al., 2004), which was published by the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health in the Infant Mental Health Journal, during pregnancy a woman develops very significant "attitudes toward and representations of her developing infant." Women, the study explains, "...gradually develop rich and specific representations of their infants" as their pregnancy moves forward. And a good many of those representations that the fetus is being affected by "are constructed from mothers' own experiences in relationships." This is a key time for a woman to bond with her unborn.

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And with that in mind, an ideal pregnancy for a woman would be one in which life is routine, peaceful, and full of positive experiences that the mother wishes for her child; any physical or other cruel forms of abuse she may encounter during her pregnancy is an unacceptable infringement into her life, and into the emerging relationship with her child; and that abuse she is forced to put up with, can, in many cases, have a debilitating impact on the yet-to-be-born baby. This paper reviews scholarly research literature on many facets of the issue.

The Available Statistics on Intimate Partner Violence

Term Paper on Intimate Partner Violence in Pregnancy Assignment

According to a research study administered by the National Institute of Justice, a part of the U.S. Department of Justice (Tjaden, et al., 1998), of the 8,000 women surveyed, fifty-two percent said they have been physically assaulted by an adult male during their lifetimes. In a more recent study published by the highly regarded U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO, 2002) ("Violence Against Women: Data on Pregnant Victims and Effectiveness of Prevention Strategies Are Limited"), the GAO asserts that Violence Against Women - whether pregnant or not - includes "hitting, pushing, kicking, sexually assaulting, using a weapon, and threatening violence." Violence can also include "verbal or psychological abuse, stalking, or enforced social isolation" - i.e., preventing the woman from interacting with friends, family.

The Center for Disease Control's (CDC) PRAMS ("Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System"), according to the GAO report, has no "current national estimate measuring the prevalence of violence during pregnancy." The CDC is attempting to be more productive in terms of collecting data regarding violence against women, however: whereas only 5 states collected data in 1987, in 2001, some 32 states and Washington, D.C. received grants that were awarded specifically for the collection of data regarding "maternal behaviors, such as the use of alcohol and tobacco, and experiences - including physical abuse - before, during, and immediately following pregnancy."

The FBI and the CDC gather information on homicides nationally, but neither agency collects data on whether female victims of homicide were pregnant; that having been said, some 17 states (plus New York City and Puerto Rico) report the pregnancy status of the woman on death certificates, albeit those data are not always "comparable" because some of the victims were only "recently pregnant." And among the states that keep "recently pregnant" data, the word "recently" ranges from 42 days into the pregnancy to one year following delivery of the baby. Further confusing matters with reference to death certificates reflecting pregnancy, "researchers have reported that physicians completing death certificates after a pregnant woman's death failed to report that the woman was pregnant" or was recently pregnant in "at least 50% of the cases."

On the subject of physicians not being as thorough as they could be on issues of violence and pregnancy, the GAO report indicates that "fewer than half of physicians routinely screen women for violence during pregnancy." The more likely setting is the prenatal doctor's office: if a doctor suspected a patient was being abused, he or she asked her about that. In the 15 states that provided PRAMS data for 1998, between 25 and 40% of pregnant women responding to a questionnaire said a health care provider did speak with them about intimate partner violence during prenatal visits.

The Literature on Violence against Pregnant Women

An Empirical Study by Michigan State University: In the Huth-Bocks article, mentioned in the Introduction, the authors report that pregnancy is a time when the woman "reorganizes a woman's relationship with her own mother" (81). and, a mother's "mental representations of self and others," the report continues, are made active and "reworked" during her pregnancy; in particular "after the first trimester" when the fetus becomes like a "real baby" to the mother. In setting up their research on what happens to a pregnant woman who is abused - and later, to her child - the authors write that there are three sets of representations that are particularly important for an expectant mother during pregnancy, according to the article: a) "representation of her own mother and her own attachment experiences"; b) "representations of her infant"; and c) "representations of herself as a mother" (82).

Mothers, the research shows, "conceptualized and organized their relationship with their babies during pregnancy in ways that were similar to the way mothers conceptualized their relationships with their own mothers." (in other words, it is healthy and natural for the mother to visualize how she wants her child to turn out, emotionally and physically, at different periods in the child's future life.) and using the Working Model of the Child Interview (WMCI), developed for clinical purposes to assess maternal representations of the infant, mothers "of securely attached babies" had significantly higher ratings on the WMCI when it came to "richness in perceptions, openness to change, narrative coherence, and care-giving sensitivity."

In fact, when the WMCI was given to 96 pregnant women, and then re-administered to those same women when their child was 1-year-old, the results reflected a "significant concordance" between what the mother "represented" (visualized, projected) of their infants during pregnancy" and how that child actually is evolving as a young person. So, there is clinical, empirical evidence of a firm connection between how mothers are able to perceive their unborn children, and how they indeed "perceive and interact with their children after they are born."

Those facts having been presented, the article goes on to report that the newborn child of a woman who has been battered or otherwise had violence visited upon her, is also a victim. "Clearly domestic violence is a traumatizing experience that often is chronic and repetitive and has a myriad of negative consequences for its victims." The research suggests that "domestic violence occurs in the context of a significant attachment relationship" (an intimate partner), which very likely influences "the victim's capacity for relatedness and her internal working model of herself" and her child.

Moreover, when pregnant, women are "forming and reorganizing representations of others, themselves as care givers, and their infants." What is tragic when a woman is beaten or slapped repeatedly during pregnancy, is that "the pregnancy itself and the growing, moving fetus may be perceived as threatening at times." This could be true because the fetus "may re-evoke aspects of the trauma associated with being battered by a partner." Even harmless acts by an infant, the article continues, "may trigger the attachment system and dysregulated feelings if the acts resonate with the parent's experience of trauma."

The study conducted by Michigan State University involved 206 pregnant women, 18 to 40 years of age, in their last trimester, who were involved in some kind of romantic relationship for at least 6 weeks during the pregnancy. Forty-four percent of the women in the study reported domestic violence (DV) during the current pregnancy, and 56% reported no DV. The battered group on the whole tended to be "significantly younger, less educated," and more often they were unmarried than the "non-battered women" were.

Meanwhile, results showed that the representations of women who experienced violence were characterized by the following: "less flexibility or openness to change; less coherence; less caregiving sensitivity; less acceptance of the child; greater perceived infant difficult; less joy; more anger; more anxiety; more depressive affect; and less feelings of self-efficacy as a caregiver."

Maternal and Child Health Journal: An examination of abused pregnant women in 16 states: Another study shows that approximately 3.9 million American women experienced "live births" in 1998, according to a recent study (Saltzman, et al., 2003); and among those women an estimated 152,000 to 324,000 - approximately 4 to 8% - were abused ("experienced violence" against them). The research article published in Maternal and Child Health Journal reports that in a majority of states from which… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Intimate Partner Violence in Pregnancy" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Intimate Partner Violence in Pregnancy.  (2005, April 22).  Retrieved July 4, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Intimate Partner Violence in Pregnancy."  22 April 2005.  Web.  4 July 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Intimate Partner Violence in Pregnancy."  April 22, 2005.  Accessed July 4, 2020.