Domestic Violence against Women in Their Childbearing Years: A Review of the Literature
O'Reilly, Rebecca, Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession
Domestic violence is a principal cause of morbidity for women during pregnancy both within Australia and on a global level.There is evidence that domestic violence in pregnancy is a leading cause of death related to homicide (Campbel, Soeken, McFarlane & Parker 1998 in Sagrestano, Carroll, Rodriguez & Nuwayhid 2004; Farella 2002). VicHealth (2004) found that domestic violence is responsible for more ill-health and premature death of women residing in Victoria, Australia, under the age of 45 years than any other health factors. It has also been estimated that 33% of clients accessing an Australian Government support program for homeless people were women escaping domestic violence (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2005). Over half of this clientele were women accompanied by their children (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2005). The risk factors for the mother and fetus who are victims of domestic violence during pregnancy range from emotional distress of the mother to fetal death (Espinosa & Osborne 2002). Domestic violence during pregnancy strongly predicts violence immediately following the birth and may be a long-standing problem in a relationship, or commence in pregnancy with pregnancy being an initiating or escalating factor (Johnson et al. 2003; Huth-Bocks et al. 2002; Radestad et al. 2004; Saunders 2000).
For the purpose of this paper domestic violence will refer to the physical, sexual, emotional, verbal, social and economic abuse (see Table 1) towards a person by their spouse or partner (Espinosa and Osborne 2002; Johnson et al. 2003). Meuer, Seymour and Wallace (2000) further define domestic violence as 'a pattern of coercive behavior designed to exert power and control over a person in an intimate relationship through the use of intimidating, threatening, harmful, or harassing behavior' (chapter 9:3). The term 'childbearing years' refers to the period in a woman's life where she is either pregnant or within the first year of the postnatal period.
This literature review aims to discuss the prevalence of domestic violence against childbearing women, identify correlating factors for domestic violence, uncover the health implications for a mother and her infant resulting from domestic violence and address the role of the health care provider in addressing domestic violence against women. The literature search for studies to include within this review was carried out via the following databases from January 1995 to October 2006:
1. CINAHL with fulltext
4. Journals at Ovid
5. MEDLINE (via Ovid)
6. MEDLINE (via Science Direct)
9. Academic Search Premier
10. Health source - Consumer Edition
11. Health Source - Nursing/Academic Edition
12. Blackwell Synergy
13. Cochrane Library
14. CINAHL select
15. Psychology and Behaviour Sciences Collection
16. Professional Development Collection
The keywords used for this search differed between some databases but were comparable and included combinations of screen $, pregnan$, abus$, violen$, partner or spous$ or domestic. The search was limited to papers published in English.
Determining the rates of domestic violence is difficult with the actual prevalence of domestic violence during pregnancy reported within the literature being inconsistent (Espinosa & Osborne 2002; Power, Koch, Kralik & Jackson 2006). Johnson et al. (2003) carried out a study in an antenatal booking clinic in the north of England which revealed that voluntary disclosure presents an under-estimate of the true incidence of domestic violence against pregnant women. Power et al. (2006) also believe that with variability in reporting there is an underestimation of domestic violence prevalence.
Although some studies report domestic violence occurring in 3. …