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Archives of Women's Mental Health

, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 183–189 | Cite as

Maternal-foetal bonding: the impact of domestic violence on the bonding process between a mother and child

  • D. Zeitlin
  • T. Dhanjal
  • M. Colmsee
Original contribution

Summary

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.

Keywords: Maternal-foetal bond; abuse; domestic violence; pregnancy; post-natal depression. 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. Zeitlin
    • 1
  • T. Dhanjal
    • 1
  • M. Colmsee
    • 1
  1. 1.The University of Birmingham Medical School, Department of Psychiatry, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, U.K.GB

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