Books and Articles
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
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
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
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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