Family violence and maltreatment of women during the perinatal period: Associations with infant morbidity in Indian slum communities

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Objectives: To determine the prevalence of non-violent, gender-based forms of maltreatment of women by husbands and in-laws [i.e., gender-based household maltreatment (GBHM)] during pregnancy and postpartum; to clarify the role of GBHM in compromising infant health, and whether this role extends beyond that previously observed for intimate partner violence (IPV). Methods: Cross-sectional, quantitative data were collected from women (ages 15–35) seeking immunizations for their infants < 6 months of age (N = 1061) in urban health centers in Mumbai, India. Logistic regression models were constructed to assess associations between maternal abuse (perinatal IPV, in-law violence and GBHM) and recent infant morbidity (diarrhea, respiratory distress, fever, colic and vomiting). Results: More than one in four women (28.4 %) reported IPV during their recent pregnancy and/or during the postpartum period, 2.6 % reported perinatal violence from in-laws, and 49.0 % reported one or more forms of perinatal GBHM. In adjusted regression models that included all forms of family violence and maltreatment, perinatal GBHM remained significantly associated with infant morbidity (AORs 1.4–1.9); perinatal IPV and in-law violence ceased to predict infant morbidity in models including GBHM. Conclusions: Findings indicate that non-violent expressions of gender inequity (e.g., nutritional deprivation, deprivation of sleep, blocking access to health care during pregnancy) are more strongly associated with poor infant health than physical or sexual violence from husbands or in-laws in urban India. These results strongly suggest the need to expand the conception of gender inequities beyond IPV to include non-violent forms of gendered mistreatment in considering their impact on infant health.