Secondary Logo

Journal Logo

Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Health Behaviors as Mediators for the Effect of Partner Abuse on Infant Birth Weight

Kearney, Margaret H.; Munro, Barbara Hazard; Kelly, Ursula; Hawkins, Joellen W.

Features
Buy

Background Intimate partner abuse of pregnant women has been linked to the delivery of low-birth-weight infants. Also, abused pregnant women have reported a greater prevalence of substance abuse, poor nutrition, and demographic risk factors for poor birth outcomes. These factors may play a role in the reported relation between intimate partner violence and birth weight.

Objectives To explore the role of substance abuse (smoking, alcohol, and drug use) and weight gain of less than 15 pounds during pregnancy as potential mediators of the relation between recent partner abuse and infant birth weight, and to investigate the role of demographic risk factors as potential moderators for the impact of abuse on birth weight.

Methods Data were extracted on abuse screening results, demographics, birth outcomes, and a range of medical and obstetric risks and complications from the medical records of 1,969 women who had been screened by clinicians for domestic abuse during pregnancy. Hypotheses were tested using multiple regression analysis.

Results Recent physical or psychological abuse had a small but significant effect on birth weight in this sample. Smoking and low weight gain were weak but significant mediators of the relation between recent abuse and infant birth weight. Single marital status was the strongest demographic predictor of decreased birth weight. No moderator effects were found.

Conclusions Although prospective studies are warranted, nursing care to reduce smoking and promote adequate weight gain in all women along with support for women’s efforts to seek safety from abuse may help to improve birth outcomes and promote maternal well-being.

Margaret H. Kearney, PhD, RNC, FAAN, is Associate Professor, William F. Connell School of Nursing, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Barbara Hazard Munro, PhD, RN, FAAN, is Dean and Professor, William F. Connell School of Nursing, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Ursula Kelly, MSN, APRN, is Predoctoral Fellow, William F. Connell School of Nursing, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Joellen W. Hawkins, RNC, PhD, FAAN, is Professor, William F. Connell School of Nursing, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Accepted for publication September 18, 2003.

This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research awarded to Dr. Hawkins. Coinvestigators in addition to the authors were Cynthia Aber, EdD, RN, Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts Boston; Joyce Dwyer, MS, MPH, RN, Associate Professor; Lois Haggerty, PhD, RNC, Associate Professor; Loretta P. Higgins, EdD, RN, Associate Professor and Associate Dean of Undergraduate Programs, all of William F. Connell School of Nursing, Boston College; Deborah Mahony, ScD, RN, Associate Professor, University of Massachusetts Boston; and Carole W. Pearce, PhD, RNC, Professor, Department of Nursing, University of Massachusetts Lowell.

Corresponding author: Margaret H. Kearney, PhD, RNC, FAAN, William F. Connell School of Nursing, Boston College, 140 Commonwealth Aveue, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467-3812 (e-mail: kearnema@bc.edu).

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.