Background: Exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) is an important adverse childhood experience, but there are few longitudinal studies in low and middle-income countries. Objective: To investigate the consequences of exposure to IPV for a child's mental health. Participants and setting: 614 mother-child pairs were evaluated in a poor urban district in Recife, northeastern Brazil. Methods: Women were interviewed in pregnancy, postpartum and six to nine years after delivery, and asked about their experience of IPV, and the exposure of their child to violence. The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) was completed by child's mother and teacher. Ten types of child experience of IPV and the age of onset of exposure were compared with the child's behavioral profile at school age. Results: The mothers reported that 372/614 (60.6%) children had been exposed to IPV. The commonest types of child exposure to IPV were “prenatally” “overheard” “eyewitnessed” and 10.0% of children were physically or verbally involved in the IPV. Mothers reported high SDQ Total Difficulties scores in 71.7% of all children exposed to IPV and teachers in 59.8%. Multivariate logistic regression analysis demonstrated the strongest association with behavioral difficulties was with exposure to IPV in the age group 1–2 years (OR 2.5 [95% CI: 1.3–4.8]). Conclusion: Young children are sensitive to the age of first exposure to IPV and to the type of IPV. Interventions to reduce IPV should be targeted on vulnerable women from poor urban communities during their pregnancies and in the first two years of their child's life.
- Bristol Population Health Science Institute
- Child behavior
- Domestic violence
- Intimate partner violence
- Low and middle-income country