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Predicting Physical Abuse Against Pregnant Hispanic Women

By J. McFarlane, W. Wiist, & M. Watson

Abuse during pregnancy is associated with several serious complications such as lower infant weight, infections, fetal distress, higher maternal depression, suicide attempt, and illicit drug use. This article presents the results of a study that investigates the role of symbolic violence (violence toward inanimate objects) and threats of violence by a male partner were associated with physical violence against pregnant Latina women.

  • 329 pregnant, physically abused Hispanic women participated in the study. The women were patients in one of three public health clinics in a large U.S. city.

  • The study found that symbolic violence and threats of violence by perpetrators were significantly associated with physical violence against the woman.

  • Study findings suggest that symbolic violence (such behaviors as throwing, smashing, or broking an object) are part of an escalating continuum of violence. Because these behaviors can be easily identified and assessed, they can be useful for "pre-abuse" screening and interventions with women in health care and other social service settings.

  • The authors suggest that these findings regarding the role of symbolic violence could also be used in intervention programs with men who use violence against their partners. The argue that in the same way that men who engage in low levels of psychological abuse are more likely to cease or reduce their aggression, people who work with men could target early intervention programs to make men aware of the significance of their acts symbolic violence as a precursor of more severe forms of abuse.

  • The authors remind readers that demographic measures such as income, education, employment status or ability to support oneself may not be good predictors of violence. At the same time, concerns about documentation, language, and transportation, among other factors, may limit Latinas' ability to seek and obtain services.

  • The authors suggest adding the information obtained in this study regarding the role of symbolic violence to prevention programs such as parenting classes and health professions training curriculum. This information could be used by adult women and adolescents to make a decision about a relationship that could result in physical violence.

McFarlane, J., Wiist, W., and Watson, M. (1998). "Predicting Physical Abuse Against Pregnant Hispanic Women." American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 15(2), 134-138.

 

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For help please call:

The National
Domestic Violence Hotline:

1-800-799-7233 (SAFE)

The New York State Spanish Domestic Violence Hotline:

Español:
1-800-942-6908

English:
1-800-942-6906

 
   

©2007. National Latino Alliance for the Elimination of Domestic Violence.
All Rights Reserved. Last updated 05/30/07.