and Nonphysical Partner Abuse and Other Risk Factors for Low Birth Weight
Among Full Term and Preterm Babies:
A Multiethnic Case-Control Study
Priscilla Schulz, LCSW
from an article of the same title by:
Jacquelyn Campbell, Sara Torres, Josephine Ryan, Christine King, Doris W. Campbell, Rebecca Y. Stallings, and Sandra C. Fuchs
Published: American Journal of Epidemiology,
V. 150 (7), 714-726, 1999
What was the purpose of this study?
Prior research has confirmed common sense that spouse abuse during pregnancy is a serious health problem for both mother and baby. Researchers in the current study explored the mechanisms by which spouse abuse affects the birth weight of infants born to abused women. They also tried to understand how demographic characteristics such as socioeconomic and educational levels play a part in placing infants of abused women at risk for low birth weight.
Over the course of 5 years (1991-1996) 1,004 women from hospital maternity settings in both Florida and Massachusetts completed self-report surveys and answered questions about their experiences of intimate partner abuse, relationship history, stress in their daily lives, social support, and alcohol and drug use during pregnancy. Study participation occurred no sooner than 6 hours after delivery and during subjects' post-partum hospital stay.
Researchers exercised care to use equal numbers of Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, Cuban-American, African-American and Anglo women in the study. In the end, Central American women were included because of the lack of low birth weight infants from Cuban American mothers.
In this "case-control study design", mothers with low-birth weight infants (weighing less than 2,500g) were matched with mothers of normal birth weight infants (weighing at least 2,500g - the control group) on hospital, ethnicity, maternal age and gestation age group. Less than 38 weeks gestation was considered preterm; full term babies were those born at 38 weeks or later. Participants' responses from the full term group were analyzed separately from those of the preterm group. Statistical techniques assessed which factors considered in the study contributed to a woman's risk for having a low birth weight baby.
What are the study's findings?
Demographic and socioeconomic characteristics:
Higher risk for low birth weight was present for both preterm and full term infants when the infant's biological father was not the mother's current intimate partner. Abuse was similarly associated with this paternity issue; when fathers of full term infants were not the mothers' current intimate partners, the risk for wife and child abuse was higher.
For this group, parity (first birth or current birth being a woman's 4th or greater), surgical/genitourinary abnormalities, low maternal weight and low weight gain during pregnancy all independently predicted higher risk for low birth weight infants.
What are the implications of this study?
Reviewed by Priscilla Schulz, November 1999