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J Clin Nurs. 2014 Oct;23(19-20):2909-18. doi: 10.1111/jocn.12542. Epub 2014 Jan 21.

Physical and sexual intimate partner violence, women's health and children's behavioural functioning: entry analysis of a seven-year prospective study.

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  • 1Nelda C. Stark College of Nursing, Texas Woman's University, Houston, TX, USA.



To increase knowledge of physical and sexual intimate partner violence against women, its impact on women's health and children's behavioural functioning.


Physical assault and sexual assault frequently co-occur. Women who experience both physical and sexual violence are at risk of poorer health outcomes than women who experience only physical violence. The behavioural functioning of children of women who experience partner violence may be adversely affected.


Cross-sectional, using baseline data from a seven-year prospective study.


Data related to severity of abuse (both physical and sexual) and the outcome measures of maternal (n = 300) mental health measures, risk of lethality, chronic pain and child (n = 300) behavioural functioning were analysed.


Higher physical abuse scores were significantly correlated with higher sexual abuse scores, and higher levels of physical abuse were associated with higher maternal anxiety and higher child externalisation scores. Higher levels of sexual abuse were associated with higher maternal somatisation and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms and higher child internalisation scores and total problems.


These initial findings suggest that children have behavioural functioning and coping that is closely related to their mothers' functioning, which is based on the type of abuse experienced by the mothers. As we gain a greater understanding of these issues, we will be better able to develop effective policies and therapeutic interventions to help abused women and their children.


Findings for the mental health functioning of women participating in this study add to the overwhelming evidence for the importance of screening for partner violence when women present for health care and for the need for effective assistance services for women who have or are currently experiencing partner violence. They also support emerging research that indicates the great need to provide effective services for the children of abused women.

© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


child behaviour outcomes; intimate partner violence; justice system; mental health; shelter

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