Mom's Response to Abuse at Home

Domestic violence impacts a mothers parenting and can lead to depression

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Domestic violence is a complex issue; it not only affects people physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.

A recent study found that different forms of domestic violence affect women in different ways – they may lead to depression and negative changes in parenting behaviors.

While the specifics of the types of abuse may vary, the results of this study show that when a mother experiences any form of domestic violence, her mental health and parenting practices suffer.

"Abuse hurts - speak with a therapist."

Judy Postmus, PhD, of the Center on Violence Against Women & Children at Rutgers University led a team in a 5-year study of the effects of domestic abuse on mothers.

The researchers decided to look at all forms of abuse, physical, psychological and economic. Economic abuse is defined as withholding or controlling finances, employment sabotage and financial exploitation.

It is believed that economic abuse is another way for abusers to control and isolate their victims, in this case, their partners.

Previous studies have shown that domestic violence can be linked with depression as well as have a negative impact on how a mother parents her children.

The researchers chose to focus on female victims of domestic abuse, since women make up the vast majority of the victim population. For this study, over two thousand women were interviewed each year about any experiences with domestic abuse as well as their parenting practices and mental health.

Three different measures were taken, one for depression, one for the mother’s engagement level with her children, and one for the mother’s use of spanking.

The study found that 19 percent of the mothers who experienced economic abuse during the first year later had a depressive episode, compared to only 10 percent of the mothers who did not experience economic abuse. Thirteen percent of mothers who experienced psychological abuse had a depressive episode, compared to 9 percent of mothers who did not experience psychological abuse.

Most notably, 23 percent of mothers who had experienced physical violence had a depressive episode, compared to 10 percent of mothers who had not experienced physical violence.

Mothers who experienced economic or psychological abuse all reported less engagement in activities with their children, like story reading and playing.

Also, mothers who experienced economic abuse reported they spanked their children 8 percent more than mothers who had not experienced economic abuse.

“The constant changes in the cortisol and adrenaline levels in the body when one experiences chronic or extreme stress, like in abusive relationships, could easily result in a parent whose coping skills are stretched to the limits, and result in a more reactive parenting style,” said contributing expert LuAnn Pierce, LCSW.

This study was published this year in the Children and Youth Services Review. No statements about funding or conflicts of interest were made.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 23, 2012
Last Updated:
October 28, 2012