Maltreatment in childhood and intimate partner violence: A latent class growth analysis in a South African pregnancy cohort

Whitney Barnett, Sarah Halligan, Jon Heron, Abigail Fraser, Nastassja Koen, Heather J. Zar, Kirsty A. Donald, Dan J. Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (SciVal)


Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a significant global problem, prevalent in low and middle-income countries (LMICs). IPV is particularly problematic during the perinatal and early postnatal period, where it is linked with negative maternal and child health outcomes. There has been little examination of profiles of IPV and early life adversity in LMIC contexts. We aimed to characterize longitudinal IPV and to investigate maternal maltreatment in childhood as a predictor of IPV exposure during pregnancy and postnatally in a low resource setting. This study was nested in the Drakenstein Child Health Study, a longitudinal birth cohort. Maternal IPV (emotional, physical and sexual) was measured at six timepoints from pregnancy to two years postpartum (n = 832); sociodemographic variables and maternal maltreatment in childhood were measured antenatally at 28–32 weeks’ gestation. Associations between maternal maltreatment in childhood and IPV latent class membership (to identify patterns of maternal IPV exposure) were estimated using multinomial and logistic regression. We observed high levels of maternal maltreatment during childhood (34%) and IPV during pregnancy (33%). In latent class analysis separating by IPV sub-type, two latent classes of no/low and moderate sexual IPV and three classes of low, moderate, and high emotional and physical IPV (separately) were detected. In combined latent class analysis, including all IPV sub-types together, a low, moderate and high exposure class emerged as well as a high antenatal/decreasing postnatal class. Moderate and high classes for all IPV sub-types and combined analysis showed stable intensity profiles. Maternal childhood sexual abuse, physical abuse and neglect, and emotional abuse predicted membership in high IPV classes, across all domains of IPV (aORs between 1.99 and 5.86). Maternal maltreatment in childhood was associated with increased probability of experiencing high or moderate intensity IPV during and around pregnancy; emotional neglect was associated with decreasing IPV class for combined model. Intervening early to disrupt this cycle of abuse is critical to two generations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-348
Number of pages13
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Early online date18 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


  • Childhood maltreatment
  • Intergenerational trauma
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Latent class

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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