Previous experience of family violence and intimate partner violence in pregnancy

Ana Bernarda Ludermir Thália Velho Barreto de Araújo Sandra Alves Valongueiro Maria Luísa Corrêa Muniz Elisabete Pereira Silva About the authors

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVE

To estimate differential associations between the exposure to violence in the family of origin and victimization and perpetration of intimate partner violence in pregnancy.

METHODS

A nested case-control study was carried out within a cohort study with 1,120 pregnant women aged 18–49 years old, who were registered in the Family Health Strategy of the city of Recife, State of Pernambuco, Brazil, between 2005 and 2006. The cases were the 233 women who reported intimate partner violence in pregnancy and the controls were the 499 women who did not report it. Partner violence in pregnancy and previous experiences of violence committed by parents or other family members were assessed with a standardized questionnaire. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were modeled to identify differential associations between the exposure to violence in the family of origin and victimization and perpetration of intimate partner violence in pregnancy.

RESULTS

Having seen the mother suffer intimate partner violence was associated with physical violence in childhood (OR = 2.62; 95%CI 1.89–3.63) and in adolescence (OR = 1.47; 95%CI 1.01–2.13), sexual violence in childhood (OR = 3.28; 95%CI 1.68–6.38) and intimate partner violence during pregnancy (OR = 1.47; 95% CI 1.01 – 2.12). The intimate partner violence during pregnancy was frequent in women who reported more episodes of physical violence in childhood (OR = 2.08; 95%CI 1.43–3.02) and adolescence (OR = 1.63; 95%CI 1.07–2.47), who suffered sexual violence in childhood (OR = 3.92; 95%CI 1.86–8.27), and who perpetrated violence against the partner (OR = 8.67; 95%CI 4.57–16.45).

CONCLUSIONS

Experiences of violence committed by parents or other family members emerge as strong risk factors for intimate partner violence in pregnancy. Identifying and understanding protective and risk factors for the emergence of intimate partner violence in pregnancy and its maintenance may help policymakers and health service managers to develop intervention strategies.

Pregnant Women; Violence Against Women; Domestic Violence; Intimate Partner Violence; Case-Control Studies

INTRODUCTION

Violence inside the family context has been presented as a phenomenon with high frequencies22. Abramsky T, Watts CH, Garcia-Moreno C, Devries K, Kiss L, Ellsberg, et al. What factors are associated with recent intimate partner violence? Findings from the WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence. BMC Public Health. 2011;11:109. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-11-109
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,2828. Renner LM, Slack KS. Intimate partner violence and child maltreatment: understanding intra- and intergenerational connections. Child Abuse Negl. 2006;30(6):599-617. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2005.12.005
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and passed down through the generations3333. Taillieu TL, Brownridge DA. Violence against pregnant women: prevalence. patterns. risk factors. theories. and directions for future research. Aggress Violent Behav. 2010;15(1):14-35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2009.07.013
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2009.07.01...
. Exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) in childhood or adolescence can be associated with IPV perpetration or victimization in adulthood2828. Renner LM, Slack KS. Intimate partner violence and child maltreatment: understanding intra- and intergenerational connections. Child Abuse Negl. 2006;30(6):599-617. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2005.12.005
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2005.12...
. The complex, multidimensional nature of family violence has been identified in international1212. Casanueva CE, Martin SL. Intimate partner violence during pregnancy and mothers’ child abuse potential. J Interpers Violence. 2007;22(5):603-22. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260506298836
https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260506298836...
and Brazilian studies44. Audi CAF, Segall-Corrêa AM, Santiago SM, Andrade MGG, Pérez-Escamilla R. Violence against pregnant women: prevalence and associated factors. Rev Saude Publica. 2008;42(5):877-85. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-89102008005000041
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,3535. Zanoti-Jeronymo D, Zaleski M, Pinsky I, Caetano R, Figlie NB, Laranjeira R. [Prevalence of physical abuse in childhood and exposure to parental violence in a Brazilian sample]. Cad Saude Publica. 2009;25(11):2467-79. Portuguese. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0102-311X2009001100016
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, which have demonstrated a co-occurrence of different forms of violence.

Intimate partner violence during pregnancy (IPVP) is a social and public health problem, both in its magnitude and consequences, with short2121. Ludermir AB, Lewis G, Valongueiro SA, Araújo TVB, Araya R. Violence against women by their intimate partner during pregnancy and postnatal depression: a prospective cohort study. Lancet. 2010;376(9744):903-10. https://doi.org/:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60887-2
https://doi.org/:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)6...
and long-term outcomes for women and children2323. McMahon S, Huang CC, Boxer P, Postmus JL. The impact of emotional and physical violence during pregnancy on maternal and child health at one year post-partum. Child Youth Serv Rev. 2011;33(11):2103-11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2011.06.001
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.201...
.

In a review of studies conducted in developed and developing countries, Taillieu and Brownridge3333. Taillieu TL, Brownridge DA. Violence against pregnant women: prevalence. patterns. risk factors. theories. and directions for future research. Aggress Violent Behav. 2010;15(1):14-35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2009.07.013
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2009.07.01...
have identified variations in the prevalence of IPVP. Psychological violence ranged between 1.5% and 43.2%, physical violence between 0.9% and 30%, and sexual violence between 1% and 3.9%. In a systematic review of African studies3232. Shamu S, Abrahams N, Temmerman M, Musekiwa A, Zarowsky C. A systematic review of African studies on intimate partner violence against pregnant women: prevalence and risk factors. PLoS One. 2011;6(3):e17591. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0017591
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.001...
, the prevalence of IPVP ranged from 2% to 57%. Han and Stewart1919. Han A, Stewart DE. Maternal and fetal outcomes of intimate partner violence associated with pregnancy in the Latin American and Caribbean region. Int J Gynecol Obstet. 2014;124(1):6-11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijgo.2013.06.037
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijgo.2013.06.0...
have found prevalence rates of IPVP in Latin America and the Caribbean, which ranged from 3% to 34.5% for sexual violence, 2.5% to 38.7% for physical violence, and 13% to 44% for psychological violence. In Brazil, physical or sexual violence has been found in 6.5% of pregnant women55. Audi CAF, Segall-Corrêa AM, Santiago SM, Pérez-Escamilla R. Adverse health events associated with domestic violence during pregnancy among Brazilian women. Midwifery. 2012;28(4):416-21. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2011.05.010
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2011.05.0...
, severe physical violence in 18.9%2525. Moraes CL, Oliveira ASD, Reichenheim ME, Lobato G. Severe physical violence between intimate partners during pregnancy: a risk factor for early cessation of exclusive breast-feeding. Public Health Nutr. 2011:14(12):2148-55. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1368980011000802
https://doi.org/10.1017/S136898001100080...
of them, and psychological violence ranged from 19.1%55. Audi CAF, Segall-Corrêa AM, Santiago SM, Pérez-Escamilla R. Adverse health events associated with domestic violence during pregnancy among Brazilian women. Midwifery. 2012;28(4):416-21. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2011.05.010
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2011.05.0...
to 41.6%2929. Ribeiro MRC, Silva AAM, Alves MTSSB, Batista RFL, Rocha LMLN, Schraiber LB, et al. Psychological violence against pregnant women in a prenatal care cohort: rates and associated factors in São Luís, Brazil. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2014;14:66 https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2393-14-66
https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2393-14-66...
.

Several theoretical perspectives attempt to explain intimate partner violence (IPV) in women’s lives88. Bell KM, Naugle AE. Intimate partner violence theoretical considerations: moving towards a contextual framework. Clini Psychol Rev. 2008;28(7):1096-107. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2008.03.003
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2008.03.00...
. However, the specificities of IPVP still remain poorly understood. Taillieu and Brownridge3333. Taillieu TL, Brownridge DA. Violence against pregnant women: prevalence. patterns. risk factors. theories. and directions for future research. Aggress Violent Behav. 2010;15(1):14-35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2009.07.013
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2009.07.01...
mention some explanations: stress related to pregnancy, social learning theory, and evolutionary psychology.

Some factors related to pregnancy may increase the stress of the couple and, therefore, increase the risk of violence, such as: primiparity and unwanted pregnancy55. Audi CAF, Segall-Corrêa AM, Santiago SM, Pérez-Escamilla R. Adverse health events associated with domestic violence during pregnancy among Brazilian women. Midwifery. 2012;28(4):416-21. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2011.05.010
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2011.05.0...
, economic difficulties2020. Hellmuth JC, Gordon KC, Stuart GL, Moore TM. Risk factors for intimate partner violence during pregnancy and postpartum. Arch Womens Ment Health. 2013;16(1):19-27. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-012-0309-8
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-012-0309-...
, and the change in the social role of women and men when becoming parents2222. Martin SL, Harris-Britt A, Li Y, Moracco KE, Kupper LL, Campbell JC. Changes in intimate partner violence during pregnancy. J Fam Violence. 2004;19(4):201-10. https://doi.org/10.1023/B:JOFV.0000032630.50593.93
https://doi.org/10.1023/B:JOFV.000003263...
.

Theorists of social learning postulate that behavior is shaped by behavioral models that the child observes within their family of origin66. Bandura A. Social cognitive theory: an agentic perspective. Annu Rev Psychol. 2001;52:1-26. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.52.1.1
https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.52...
. The theory suggests that children exposed to IPV learn that aggression is either an appropriate strategy to manage stress and resolve conflicts or a way of obtaining control, both in intimate and social relationships1616. Franklin CA, Kercher CA. The intergenerational transmission of intimate partner violence: differentiating correlates in a random community sample. J Fam Violence. 2012;27(3):187-99. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-012-9419-3
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-012-9419-...
. Moreover, children with violent parents may not have the opportunity to learn socially positive methods of effective communication and conflict resolution, such as: negotiation, verbal reasoning, self-control tactics, and active listening99. Black DS, Sussman S, Unger JB. A further look at the intergenerational transmission of violence: witnessing interparental violence in emerging adulthood. J Interpers Violence. 2010;25(6):1022-42. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260509340539
https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260509340539...
.

Children who grow up in a family that faces stress and frustration with anger and aggressiveness present greater risk of showing the same behavior, to which they were directly or indirectly exposed, when becoming adults2424. Mihalic SW, Elliott DS. A social learning theory model of marital violence. J Fam Violence. 1997;12(1):21-47. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1021941816102
https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1021941816102...
. Similarly, children in families in which there are both IPV and violence against them are not only exposed to IPV, but also to additional opportunities for learning aggressive behavior patterns1616. Franklin CA, Kercher CA. The intergenerational transmission of intimate partner violence: differentiating correlates in a random community sample. J Fam Violence. 2012;27(3):187-99. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-012-9419-3
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-012-9419-...
.

Some studies have shown that boys exposed to IPV are more likely to become perpetrators of IPV as adults, while girls are more likely to become victims as adults, in relation to children who were not exposed to IPV3434. Whitfield CL, Anda RF, Dube SR, Felitti VJ. Violent childhood experiences and the risk of intimate partner violence in adults. J Interpers Violence. 2003;18(2):166-85. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260502238733
https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260502238733...
. In the study of Black et al.99. Black DS, Sussman S, Unger JB. A further look at the intergenerational transmission of violence: witnessing interparental violence in emerging adulthood. J Interpers Violence. 2010;25(6):1022-42. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260509340539
https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260509340539...
, interparental psychological violence was witnessed by most of the respondents (58.3%), who also experienced psychological violence in their own intimate relationship (69.5%). Similarly, physical violence was also witnessed among parents (17.5%) and experienced in their own intimate relationships (27.0%). Cannon et al.1111. Cannon EA, Bonomi AE, Anderson ML, Rivara FP. The intergenerational transmission of witnessing intimate partner violence. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009;163(8):706-8. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpediatrics.2009.91
https://doi.org/10.1001/archpediatrics.2...
have found that 49% of children who had experienced their mother being abused by an intimate partner were the daughters of women who were also exposed to IPV in childhood.

Suffering repeated physical and psychological violence by relatives throughout life is a factor associated with IPVP. In a Brazilian study, Audi et al.44. Audi CAF, Segall-Corrêa AM, Santiago SM, Andrade MGG, Pérez-Escamilla R. Violence against pregnant women: prevalence and associated factors. Rev Saude Publica. 2008;42(5):877-85. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-89102008005000041
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-8910200800...
have identified that 55.8% of women reported experience of violence during childhood. Among this number, 31.3% witnessed physical violence in the family, 17.8% were victims of physical violence, and 6.7% had experienced some form of sexual abuse. These exposures were associated with IPVP.

The emphasis of the social learning theory, which has been used to explain the intergenerational transmission of violent behavior, is on learning by observation, imitation, and modeling. Children become part of the intergenerational cycle of violence because they learn and incorporate the lessons of violence and, without intervention, grow and repeat this behavior33. Artz S, Jackson MA, Rossiter KR, Nijdam-Jones A, Géczy I, Porteous S. A comprehensive review of the literature on the impact of exposure to intimate partner violence for children and youth. Int J Child Youth Fam Stud. 2014;5(4):493-587. https://doi.org/10.18357/ijcyfs54201413274
https://doi.org/10.18357/ijcyfs542014132...
.

Evolutionary Psychology suggests that persons unconsciously struggle not only for personal survival but also for the perpetuation of their genetic legacy, which may explain the jealousy, possessiveness, and insecurity of male partners during pregnancy and IPVP2020. Hellmuth JC, Gordon KC, Stuart GL, Moore TM. Risk factors for intimate partner violence during pregnancy and postpartum. Arch Womens Ment Health. 2013;16(1):19-27. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-012-0309-8
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00737-012-0309-...
. These data are relevant to the understanding of violence against pregnant women3333. Taillieu TL, Brownridge DA. Violence against pregnant women: prevalence. patterns. risk factors. theories. and directions for future research. Aggress Violent Behav. 2010;15(1):14-35. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2009.07.013
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2009.07.01...
.

The objective of this study was to identify differential associations between the exposure to violence in the family of origin and victimization and perpetration of IPVP.

METHODS

A nested case-control study was carried out within a cohort study designed to investigate risk factors for postnatal depression and adverse maternal and personal outcomes in Health District II (one of the six health areas) in Recife, Northeastern Brazil, between 2005 and 2006. The population of the health district was 217,293 inhabitants, which represented almost 15.0% of the population of Recife, and it has a high proportion of low-income families.

The study population consisted of all (1,133) pregnant women aged 18–49 years old in the third trimester of pregnancy registered in the Family Health Strategy (Health Family Program – HFP – and Community Health Worker Program). The coverage of the Family Health Program (FHP) was approximately 78.0% of the population. Baseline data for the cohort in our study have been reported elsewhere2121. Ludermir AB, Lewis G, Valongueiro SA, Araújo TVB, Araya R. Violence against women by their intimate partner during pregnancy and postnatal depression: a prospective cohort study. Lancet. 2010;376(9744):903-10. https://doi.org/:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60887-2
https://doi.org/:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)6...
.

Pregnant women were identified from antenatal care records from 42 primary care teams as well as from the records of community health workers in order to include those not receiving antenatal care at the Health Family Program units. Data were collected by trained female interviewers and most often performed at a healthcare unit. Some interviews were conducted in the interviewee’s home at the woman’s request.

The study achieved a high response rate (98.8%) and 1,120 of the 1,133 pregnant women were eligible for inclusion in the study, of whom 732 had complete data for all variables and were included in the analysis of the study.

The cases were the 233 (31.8%, 95%CI 28.5–35.3) women who reported some form of IPV during pregnancy and the controls were the 499 (68.2%, 95%CI 64.7–71.5) pregnant women who did not report IPVP.

The questions relating to violence were developed by the international team of the WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence1717. Garcia-Moreno C, Jansen HAFM, Ellsberg M, Heise L, Watts CH; WHO Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women Study Team. Prevalence of intimate partner violence: findings from the WHO Multi-country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence. Lancet. 2006;368(9543):1260-9. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(06)69523-8
https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(06)69...
. As in all other countries, the Brazilian/Portuguese questionnaire was independently back-translated and discussed during interviewer training and piloting.

Intimate partners were defined as being the partner or ex-partner with whom the woman lived or used to live, regardless of formal union, including current partners with whom they maintained sexual relations. Therefore, women could report partner violence even if they were not with a partner at the time of the antenatal interview. To identify IPVP, the questions characterized physical violence as physical aggression or use of objects or weapons to produce injuries; psychological violence as threatening behavior, humiliation, and insults; and sexual violence as sexual intercourse imposed using physical force or threats and imposition of acts that were considered humiliating. The IPVP was considered positive if the woman answered “yes” to at least one of the questions that comprise each type of violence2121. Ludermir AB, Lewis G, Valongueiro SA, Araújo TVB, Araya R. Violence against women by their intimate partner during pregnancy and postnatal depression: a prospective cohort study. Lancet. 2010;376(9744):903-10. https://doi.org/:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60887-2
https://doi.org/:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)6...
.

The analysis of early experiences of violence was conducted with a theoretical-conceptual model (Figure) which describes the possible associations between the woman’s and the partner’s experiences of violence during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, whether by witnessing their mothers suffer violence or by being victims or perpetrators of violence.

Figure
Theoretical and conceptual model of the possible stages from childhood violence to experiences of violence during pregnancy.

We investigated the variables described in the literature as being associated with IPVP: a) socioeconomic and demographic (age: 18–19 years versus ≥ 20 years, race: white versus non-white, living without a partner: yes versus no, years of schooling: 0–4 versus ≥ 5, house ownership: owned versus rented), own income: yes versus no, employment status: employed versus not employed); b) behavioral characteristics (aggressive behavior by the partner outside the home: yes versus no), and c) relationship profile of the couple (communication with the partner: good versus poor, controlling behavior of partner: not controlling versus moderate and very controlling, fights between the couple: yes versus no, women’s infidelity: yes versus no, and partner’s infidelity: yes versus no). Communication with the current or most recent partner and controlling behavior of partner were described elsewhere2121. Ludermir AB, Lewis G, Valongueiro SA, Araújo TVB, Araya R. Violence against women by their intimate partner during pregnancy and postnatal depression: a prospective cohort study. Lancet. 2010;376(9744):903-10. https://doi.org/:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60887-2
https://doi.org/:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)6...
.

Analysis was performed with Stata for Windows, version 10.1. Logistic regression analyses were modeled to identify differential associations between the exposure to violence in the family of origin and victimization and perpetration of IPVP. Variables that had p < 0.20 in the univariate analysis were included in the multivariate analysis. Odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals were calculated between IPVP and other exposures to violence.

The study received approval from the Ethics Committee of the Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (Protocol 303/2004). Confidentiality and privacy of the interviewees were guaranteed. All women gave written informed consent before taking part in the study. They all received information, specifically produced for this purpose, on social, health, legal, and police services available in the area under study regardless of the presence of partner violence. Services were contacted to assist those women interviewed who were in life-threatening situations.

RESULTS

Table 1 presents the socioeconomic, demographic, and behavioral characteristics and the relationship profile of cases and controls. The IPVP were more likely in women without a partner, with lower education, in those who had a controlling partner and with aggressive behaviors outside the home, without communication with the partner, with fights with their partner, and in the presence of women’s and partner’s infidelity.

Table 1
Association of the socioeconomic, demographic, and behavioral characteristics and the relationship profile with intimate partner violence in pregnancy. Municipality of Recife, Northeastern Brazil, 2005–2006.

Table 2 shows the association of women’s experiences of violence in the family of origin and the perpetration of IPV, as well as victimization during pregnancy. The analysis of the first, second, fourth, and sixth stage reveals the situations of victimization of the women. In childhood, having seen the mother suffer IPV was associated with physical violence in childhood (OR = 2.62, 95%CI 1.89–3.63) and in adolescence (OR = 1.47, 95%CI 1.01–2.13), sexual violence in childhood (OR = 3.28, 95%CI 1.68–6.38), and IPVP (OR = 1.47, 95%CI 1.01–2.12). The IPVP was frequent in women who reported more episodes of physical violence in childhood and adolescence and sexual violence in childhood. The fourth stage shows that physical violence in childhood increased the chance of physical violence in adolescence (OR = 1.89, 95%CI 1.31–2.74) and sexual violence in childhood (OR = 2.48, 95%CI 1.28–4.79). Similarly, the chance of sexual violence in adolescence is increased by the experience of physical violence in adolescence (OR = 3.31, 95%CI 1.76–6.21) and sexual violence in childhood (OR = 2.84, 95%CI 1.07–7.53).The third, fifth, and seventh stage show the situations of victimization of women and the perpetration of violence against the partner. Physical violence in childhood (OR = 1.85, 95%CI 1.13–3.05) and adolescence (OR = 2.59, 95%CI 1.54–4:35) presented statistically significant association with the perpetration of violence against the partner, which, in turn, increased the chance of the women suffering IPVP (OR = 8.67, 95%CI 4.57–16.45).

Table 2
Association of women’s experiences of violence in the family of origin, the perpetration of intimate partner violence, and victimization of intimate partner violence in pregnancy. Municipality of Recife, Northeastern Brazil, 2005–2006.

Regarding the partner, Table 3 shows that having witnessed the mother suffer IPV in his childhood was associated with physical violence in childhood (OR=2.83, 95%CI 2.00–4.00) and perpetration of IPVP (OR=1.86, 95%CI 1.27–2.72). Having been a victim of physical violence in childhood increased the chance of perpetrating IPVP (OR=1.76, 95%CI 1.21–2.54).

Table 3
Association of partner’s experiences of violence in the family of origin and the perpetration of intimate partner violence in pregnancy. Municipality of Recife, Northeastern Brazil, 2005–2006.

DISCUSSION

The results indicate that experiences of violence in intimate relationships, including in times of emotional and physical vulnerability for women (such as pregnancy) were more frequent in women who reported violence in the family of origin, including witnessing the mother suffer IPV and being a victim of physical and/or sexual violence in childhood and physical violence in adolescence. A pattern of continuity has been identified, which has also increased the chance of perpetration of physical violence against the partner and IPVP.

Children who witness or experience violence are more likely to commit or be victims of violence when adults, when compared to children who were not exposed to violence1010. Brownridge DA, Taillieu TL, Tyler KA, Tiwari A, Chan KL, Santos SC. Pregnancy and intimate partner violence: risk factors, severity, and health effects. Violence Against Women. 2011;17(7):858-81. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801211412547
https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801211412547...
. Although it is clear that violence in the family of origin has an impact on perpetration and victimization, this relationship has not been fully explored regarding the specific risk of IPVP.

The IPVP is not an isolated incident in the life of a woman and may be part of a process of life. International studies have reported the association of IPV in life22. Abramsky T, Watts CH, Garcia-Moreno C, Devries K, Kiss L, Ellsberg, et al. What factors are associated with recent intimate partner violence? Findings from the WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence. BMC Public Health. 2011;11:109. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-11-109
https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-11-109...
and IPVP77. Barrios YV, Gelaye B, Zhong Q, Nicolaidis C, Rondon MB, Garcia PJ, et al. Association of childhood physical and sexual abuse with intimate partner violence, poor general health and depressive symptoms among pregnant women. PLoS One. 2015;10(1):e0116609. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0116609
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.011...
,1010. Brownridge DA, Taillieu TL, Tyler KA, Tiwari A, Chan KL, Santos SC. Pregnancy and intimate partner violence: risk factors, severity, and health effects. Violence Against Women. 2011;17(7):858-81. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801211412547
https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801211412547...
,3232. Shamu S, Abrahams N, Temmerman M, Musekiwa A, Zarowsky C. A systematic review of African studies on intimate partner violence against pregnant women: prevalence and risk factors. PLoS One. 2011;6(3):e17591. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0017591
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.001...
with having witnessed the mother suffer violence and with having been a victim of physical or sexual violence in childhood. The IPV has also been found in a population-based survey conducted in Brazil with 15–49 years old women1313. D’Oliveira AFPL, Schraiber LB, França-Junior I, Ludermir AB. Portella AP, Diniz CS, et al. Factors associated with intimate partner violence against Brazilian women. Rev Saude Publica. 2009;43(2):299-310. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-89102009005000013
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-8910200900...
. In Brazilian women who attended primary health care services, IPVP was associated with having witnessed the mother suffer violence and being a victim of physical violence in childhood44. Audi CAF, Segall-Corrêa AM, Santiago SM, Andrade MGG, Pérez-Escamilla R. Violence against pregnant women: prevalence and associated factors. Rev Saude Publica. 2008;42(5):877-85. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-89102008005000041
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-8910200800...
.

Witnessing the mother suffer IPV in childhood was associated with physical violence suffered by girls in childhood and adolescence. Studies have shown that when there is IPV in the family, children are more likely to be victims of physical violence because the men who assault their partners and the women who are involved in violent relationships abuse their children more often compared to the women who did not experience such violence1212. Casanueva CE, Martin SL. Intimate partner violence during pregnancy and mothers’ child abuse potential. J Interpers Violence. 2007;22(5):603-22. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260506298836
https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260506298836...
. One of the approaches to examine this potential association is the violent maternal educational practice3030. Sani AI, Cunha DMM. Práticas educativas parentais em mulheres vítimas e não vítimas de violência conjugal. Psicol Teor Pesq. 2011;27(4):429-37. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0102-37722011000400006
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0102-3772201100...
.

The association of IPVP with physical or sexual violence in childhood is consistent with a study carried out in the United States2626. Nelson DB, Uscher-Pines L, Staples SR, Grisso JA. Childhood violence and behavioral effects among urban pregnant women. J Womens Health (Larschmt). 2010;19(6):1177-83. https://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2009.1539
https://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2009.1539...
. Pregnant women reporting some form of violence in childhood had a 2.5 times greater chance of experiencing IPVP. The pattern of continuity found between the experience of violence in childhood/adolescence and the association with IPVP can be explained by the risk of re-victimization of women who have been abused both physically and sexually in childhood77. Barrios YV, Gelaye B, Zhong Q, Nicolaidis C, Rondon MB, Garcia PJ, et al. Association of childhood physical and sexual abuse with intimate partner violence, poor general health and depressive symptoms among pregnant women. PLoS One. 2015;10(1):e0116609. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0116609
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.011...
. Other studies have also concluded that women who witnessed IPV during childhood present a higher risk of experiencing IPV in adulthood22. Abramsky T, Watts CH, Garcia-Moreno C, Devries K, Kiss L, Ellsberg, et al. What factors are associated with recent intimate partner violence? Findings from the WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence. BMC Public Health. 2011;11:109. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-11-109
https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-11-109...
,1313. D’Oliveira AFPL, Schraiber LB, França-Junior I, Ludermir AB. Portella AP, Diniz CS, et al. Factors associated with intimate partner violence against Brazilian women. Rev Saude Publica. 2009;43(2):299-310. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-89102009005000013
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-8910200900...
. Abeya et al.11. Abeya SG, Afework MF, Yalew AW. Intimate partner violence against women in western Ethiopia: prevalence. patterns. and associated factors. BMC Public Health. 2011;11:913. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-11-913
https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-11-913...
state that women who witness violence against their mothers are more likely to tolerate violence by their partners in a passive manner. Thus, it is possible that, in the future, these observers become silent victims of abuse. Furthermore, there is also evidence that witnessing or experiencing some form of abuse during childhood increases the risk of being a perpetrator of IPV in adulthood1111. Cannon EA, Bonomi AE, Anderson ML, Rivara FP. The intergenerational transmission of witnessing intimate partner violence. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2009;163(8):706-8. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpediatrics.2009.91
https://doi.org/10.1001/archpediatrics.2...
.

Having been a victim of IPVP was approximately nine times more frequent among women who perpetrated physical violence against the partner. The experiences of violence in the family of origin showed lower percentages. However, they were collected from reports that require remembering events that occurred in childhood or adolescence, which are prone to recall bias. The perpetration of violence by women is more recent, thus less susceptible to this bias.

Perpetration of physical violence against the partner showed association with the experience of women as victims of physical violence in childhood or adolescence1414. Eriksson L, Mazerolle P. A cycle of violence? Examining family-of-origin violence, attitudes, and intimate partner violence perpetration. J Interpers Violence. 2015;30(6):945-64. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260514539759
https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260514539759...
. However, it has not been associated with sexual violence in childhood and/or adolescence, indicating that the consequences of exposure to physical violence in childhood and adolescence differ from those of sexual violence. The imitated behaviors also have gender-specific influence1818. Gover AR, Kaukinen C, Fox KA. The relationship between violence in the family of origin and dating violence among college students. J Interpers Violence. 2008;23(12):1667-93. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260508314330
https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260508314330...
and they highlight the importance of the proposition of the social learning theory for modeling behaviors, based on direct and observed experiences in the family environment1414. Eriksson L, Mazerolle P. A cycle of violence? Examining family-of-origin violence, attitudes, and intimate partner violence perpetration. J Interpers Violence. 2015;30(6):945-64. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260514539759
https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260514539759...
.

In agreement with other studies1515. Fleming PJ, McCleary-Sills J, Morton M, Levtov R, Heilman B, Barker G. Risk factors for men’s lifetime perpetration of physical violence against intimate partners: results from the International Men and Gender Equality Survey (IMAGES) in eight countries. PLoS One. 2015;10(3):e0118639. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0118639
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.011...
, having witnessed his mother be a victim of IPV, besides suffering physical violence in childhood, increases the chance of the partner perpetrating IPV, reinforcing previous research that suggests the intergenerational transmission of violence.

This study has several strengths. First, the large sample was recruited from family and community health workers programs with an excellent response rate, providing a representative community sample of poor persons in Recife. Second, we used an internationally recognized questionnaire that takes a non-judgmental approach to this sensitive subject. The questionnaire had its psychometric properties considered as adequate to estimate the occurrence of violence against women in Brazil3131. Schraiber LB, Latorre MRDO, França Jr I, Segri NJ, D’Oliveira AFPL. Validade do instrumento WHO/VAW STUDY para estimar violência de gênero contra a mulher. Rev Saude Publica. 2010;44(4):658-66. https://10.1590/S0034-89102010000400009
https://10.1590/S0034-89102010000400009...
, and it has been used in several studies on IPVP44. Audi CAF, Segall-Corrêa AM, Santiago SM, Andrade MGG, Pérez-Escamilla R. Violence against pregnant women: prevalence and associated factors. Rev Saude Publica. 2008;42(5):877-85. https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-89102008005000041
https://doi.org/10.1590/S0034-8910200800...
,55. Audi CAF, Segall-Corrêa AM, Santiago SM, Pérez-Escamilla R. Adverse health events associated with domestic violence during pregnancy among Brazilian women. Midwifery. 2012;28(4):416-21. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2011.05.010
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.midw.2011.05.0...
,2727. Nybergh L, Taft C, Krantz G. Psychometric properties of the WHO Violence Against Women instrument in a female population-based sample in Sweden: a cross-sectional survey. BMJ Open. 2013;3(5):e002053. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2012-002053
https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2012-002...
,2929. Ribeiro MRC, Silva AAM, Alves MTSSB, Batista RFL, Rocha LMLN, Schraiber LB, et al. Psychological violence against pregnant women in a prenatal care cohort: rates and associated factors in São Luís, Brazil. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2014;14:66 https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2393-14-66
https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2393-14-66...
.

In addition, data were collected by interviewers experienced in addressing the issue of violence against women. Lastly, both cases and controls were obtained from the same cohort. Therefore, the controls represent the non-cases within the same reference population of the study. Thus, it may be considered that the results are representative of the population of pregnant women in Health District II.

Some limitations are also important to consider. First, the study setting and population could have biased the results of the study. The occurrence of partner violence is increased in women with little schooling and living in poverty, thus the high frequency of partner violence could be indicative of the characteristics of the community in our study.

To the best of our knowledge, despite the above mentioned limitations, this is the first study in Brazil to assess the association between IPVP and the history of woman’s and partner’s experiences of violence during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.

Furthermore, violence could have been underreported because of the associated stigma and shame. Since this is a complex, delicate, and intimate topic, women may have had difficulties in recalling the traumatic situations as well as talking about them. This fact may have underestimated the findings of this study. Other factors, such as the relationship between the woman and the abuser, which involves fear or the desire to protect him, the place where the interview was conducted, the relationship between the interviewer and the interviewee, and uncertainty as to the confidentiality of their reporting, may also have underestimated the information concerning the partner’s violence2121. Ludermir AB, Lewis G, Valongueiro SA, Araújo TVB, Araya R. Violence against women by their intimate partner during pregnancy and postnatal depression: a prospective cohort study. Lancet. 2010;376(9744):903-10. https://doi.org/:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60887-2
https://doi.org/:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)6...
.

The high prevalence of IPVP reveals the magnitude of the problem in Recife. However, more research is needed to improve our understanding of the reality of this condition throughout Brazil, especially in population segments not represented in this sample. In addition to the magnitude of the problem, the associated risk factors and the impact that IPVP has on the lives of women and their children confirms that this is a public health problem.

Attention should be drawn to this multifactorial problem for which multi-sectoral interventions should be conducted in order to identify and prevent such abuse. Health and education systems play an important role in identifying domestic violence among children and adolescents and in protecting and empowering women who report IPV. Therefore, it is necessary to reinforce the importance of the discussion on gender equality in the curriculum and pedagogical planning of schools, even when considering that in 2014 the Brazilian Congress abolished the gender issue of the National Education Plan (PNE)a a Brasil. Lei Nº 13.005, de 24 de junho de 2014 - Plano Nacional de Educação. Brasília (DF); 2014 [cited 2017 Jun 20]. Available from: http://fne.mec.gov.br/9-uncategorised/821-lei-n-13-005-de-24-de-junho-de-2014-plano-nacional-de-educacao in force until 2014. Health professionals also need to be trained and receive institutional support in order to track down and address the cases of violence against women. Interventions must also address childhood abuse and respond appropriately to children who have witnessed IPV22. Abramsky T, Watts CH, Garcia-Moreno C, Devries K, Kiss L, Ellsberg, et al. What factors are associated with recent intimate partner violence? Findings from the WHO multi-country study on women’s health and domestic violence. BMC Public Health. 2011;11:109. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-11-109
https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-11-109...
.

The results are a contribution to knowledge on IPVP, thus raising the awareness of health professionals regarding this subject, as well as the creation of prevention strategies to reduce the impacts on health. Therefore, it becomes imperative to intervene in this inter-generational cycle of abuse. We hope that current actions to reduce IPV and child abuse can decrease future occurrences of violence against women.

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  • Funding: Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Tecnológico (CNPq – Process 403060/2004-4) and the Departamento de Ciência e Tecnologia da Secretaria de Ciência, Tecnologia e Insumos Estratégicos (DECIT – 473545/2004-7).

History

  • Received
    18 Sept 2015
  • Accepted
    18 Oct 2016
  • Online publication
    21 Sept 2017
  • Issue publication
    2017
Faculdade de Saúde Pública da Universidade de São Paulo São Paulo - SP - Brazil
E-mail: revsp@org.usp.br