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Psychiatr Clin North Am. 1997 Jun;20(2):353-74.

Mental and physical health effects of intimate partner violence on women and children.

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  • 1Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


The battering of female partners and the concomitant emotional abuse that is almost always part of the coercive control have significant mental and physical health consequences for the women who experience this type of violence. Children who live in households fraught with the conflict, violence, and unpredictable danger of domestic violence often witness the battering of their mothers and may also be victims of child abuse themselves. This article highlights current knowledge regarding the mental and physical health effects of intimate partner violence on women and their children, and discusses needed directions for screening, intervention, research, and changes in the health care system.


This article reviews the literature on the effects of domestic violence on women and children. The introduction notes that domestic violence affects millions of women in the US each year, significantly increasing their health problems and their use of the health care system. The next sections review the incidence of mortality related to such abuse and women's physical health sequelae from battering. Consideration of women's mental health consequences focuses on the traumatic response framework that has been developed to conceptualize the psychological effects of domestic violence. The article then considers studies of abuse during pregnancy. Next, the article turns to the children of battered women, noting how they often fit the description of traumatized children but that there have been no studies to date of the existence among them of post-traumatic stress disorder. After looking at studies that marked children's responses to traumatic events and the effects of domestic violence on the children, the review examines work that revealed developmental differences in children from violent homes. The article then points to several limitations in prior research in the area of domestic violence and highlights the lack of experimental evaluation of treatments or interventions. Next, research into possible opportunities for routine screening and intervention is considered. The article concludes by documenting the need for a change in the health care system so that it can respond appropriately to the needs of battered women.

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