Maternal-foetal bonding: the impact of domestic violence on the bonding process between a mother and child
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Objectives: To test the hypothesis that domestic violence has an impact on the maternal-foetal bond and the maternal-infant bond, and to investigate any relationship between the two bonding states (taking into account post-natal depression).
Design: Case-control, unmatched, study with random cluster sampling.
Setting: Refuge shelters in Central Birmingham and Greater London (cases). City hospital (Dudley Road), Bartley Green and Longbridge General Practices (controls).
Subjects: Women who gave birth in the year preceding the study: 11 who experienced physical or mental abuse whilst pregnant, 27 who reported no abuse.
Measures: Severity of abuse in the cases (ASS). Degree of maternal-foetal (ADS) and maternal-infant bonding (BPNB) achieved in cases and controls. Level of Post-Natal Depression in the cases (EPND).
Results: Mothers who were abused during pregnancy are less likely to bond well with their foetus and subsequently their child. In non-abused mothers there is a prominent strengthening in maternal-child bonding after birth, this change is minimal in abused women. Within the index sample significantly positive correlations were found between MFB and MIB; MFB and ASS; and MIB and ASS scores. No such correlations were found in the control group. Abused women were more likely to suffer from post-natal depression as compared to their non-abused counterparts, the degree of depression was not related to the severity of the abuse experienced.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that exposure to abuse weakens the maternal-foetal bond, possibly making it not amenable to the normal strengthening post partum, thus diminishing the strength of the maternal-infant bond in abused mothers.
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