Violence against new mothers has an adverse effect on the early development of their child, a recent study has found.
The epidemiological sub-study by the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDRB) found that violence against women and stress affects both child care practices and child health and nutrition.
It found 60-74% of married women had been subjected to violence by their husbands, and that these women exclusively breastfed for a shorter period of time than non-abused women.
The study also found that being insulted and made to feel bad about oneself is also related to maternal behavior during breastfeeding.
Senior Scientist at ICDDRB, Dr Ruchira Tabassum Naved ICDDRB, stressed the association between violence against women and exclusive breastfeeding, child health and nutrition.
“Any amount of lifetime family violence and level of controlling behaviour has been found to be associated with smaller size at birth and growth impairment in early childhood,” she said.
“The daughters of abused women were more stunted than the daughter of never abused women and the same holds as well for the sons, but not to the same extent as for the daughters.”
To understand the negative behaviour during care ICDDRB researchers used the NCAST feeding interaction scale. NCAST is the nursing child assessment satellite training which has been used in the US to assess the maternal-infant interaction during feeding for over 10 years.
Dr Ruchira Naved said: “Physical abuse is associated with poorer quality of maternal-infant interaction. Mothers who have recently been physically abused show much lower NCAST scores and also show more negative behaviour during care.
“This increase in negative behavior is a concern, because this could lead to disturbances in the maternal-infant relationship as well as feeding problems.”
The study found that daughters of mothers exposed either to severe physical violence or a number of controlling behaviors by husband were more likely to die before reaching the age of five compared to the daughters of non-abused women but this was not the case for male children.
ICDDRB scientists found possible ways to break the “vicious circle” of malnutrition across generations, during the 15 years of randomised factorial cohort research titled ‘Maternal and Infant Nutrition Interventions in Matlab Bangladesh’ (MINIMB).
The study concludes that it is important to pay attention to the intersections between violence against women, stress and child outcomes, including child development.