Intimate Partner Violence and Maternal factors that Influence Early Child Growth

Pamela C. Kimeto


Introduction: An association between Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) against women and negative social and health consequences for children has been observed in multiple studies from around the world. Impaired growth is an important health determinant in children and has been associated with higher morbidity and mortality in children less than 5 years of age. Different forms of violence have been shown to impair the growth of children in diverse countries, especially low-income countries. This study describes the relationship between maternal experience of IPV, maternal characteristics (age, parity, ethnicity, marital status and symptoms of depression) and subsequent child growth.

Methods: Existing data that utilized longitudinal study design to collect data from 207 mother-child dyads that were from a low socio-economic status was used for secondary data analysis. The child’s weight and length data were converted to WHO growth standard z scores (Weight for Length (WLZ) and Length for Age (LAZ)) at birth and at 24 months. The z scores were assessed in relation to women’s IPV exposure status and maternal characteristics.  Linear regression was used to assess the association between prenatal and postnatal maternal variables, child variables (gender and birth order) and child’s WLZ and LAZ.

Findings:There was no statistical significance in WLZ and LAZ in children who were exposed to maternal prenatal IPV and those not exposed. The following relationships were seen in male children: birth order (p=0.023) and WLZ; Symptoms of maternal depression during pregnancy (p=0.021) and WLZ at 24 months; symptoms of maternal depression after birth (p= 0.049) and WLZ at 24 months and exposure to postnatal violence (p=0.030), specifically emotional violence (p=0.050) and LAZ score. Female children whose mothers were not married had a low LAZ (p=0.009).

Conclusion:The growth of male children less than two years is vulnerable to exposure of maternal emotional violence and depression in the pre and postnatal period while height gain of female children is affected by maternal single status.

Recommendations: There is need to screen mothers for IPV, specifically emotional violence carefully monitor the growth patterns in their children after birth especially male children


Intimate Partner Violence; Weight-for-Height; Height-for-Age.

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