“All of us at anxietycentre.com have experienced debilitating anxiety. But we’ve also overcome it and returned to normal and lasting health. Because we know the hardship anxiety unwellness can cause, we are committed to helping others, with over 30 years of service.” - Jim Folk, President, anxietycentre.com

Prenatal Exposure To Violence Leads To Increased Toddler Aggression Toward Mothers

Prenatal Exposure To Violence Leads To Increased Toddler Aggression Toward Mothers

Our early life experiences have great influence on the development of our System Of Beliefs and resulting behavior. Numerous studies have found strong links between the environment we grow up in and how we fare physically, psychologically, and emotionally as we age.

New research has now shown that even the environment our mothers are exposed to while pregnant can have an impact how children develop.


Prenatal Exposure To Violence Leads To Increased Toddler Aggression Toward Mothers

UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME

Babies whose mothers experience interpersonal violence during pregnancy are more likely to exhibit aggression and defiance toward their mothers in toddlerhood, according to new research by Laura Miller-Graff, assistant professor of psychology and peace studies, and Jennifer Burke Lefever, managing director of the William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families, both at the University of Notre Dame.

While it is fairly well-known that pregnant women have an elevated risk for domestic violence, much of the associated research focuses on the negative impact of that violence on pregnancy, labor and delivery. Miller-Graff and Lefever's study, co-published with Amy Nuttall in The International Journal of Behavioral Development, examines the short- and long-term impact of prenatal violence (regardless of perpetrator) on children's later adjustment outcomes. Nuttall earned her doctorate at Notre Dame in 2015 and is currently assistant professor of human development and family studies at Michigan State University.

"We wanted to map out how the impact of violence cascades over time," Miller-Graff said. "Prenatal violence primarily affects kids via how it affects the mother."

"Research has shown that many mothers who live in domestic violence situations have pretty strong parenting skills, but when violence affects their mental health, parenting can become more difficult as well. Infancy and early toddlerhood are key times for learning some of the core emotion regulation skills -- so if moms struggle, kids struggle."

Miller-Graff said the harmful impact of violence during pregnancy is profound and long-lasting, with discernible effects on the child as far out as 2 years old, even though the initial exposure is indirect.

"We measured toddlers' aggressive behavior in the home environment, which included kicking and defiance in toddlers as reported by their mothers."

While this finding aligned with the researchers' predictions, they were surprised to find that interpersonal violence in pregnancy did not predict children's aggressive behaviors toward their peers -- suggesting that many children are able to exhibit resilience in social relationships outside of the home.

When Miller-Graff was in graduate school, her research focused on the impact of intimate partner violence (IPV) on preschoolers, and she wondered whether studying an earlier phase would be more effective -- not only with intervention, but also with prevention of intergenerational cycles of abuse.

She said: "Although supporting IPV-exposed preschoolers is extremely important, I often felt like we were arriving to the scene too late. The period of pregnancy is an optimal point for intervention not only because you are intervening early, but also because women are often engaged in a health care system with the most regularity of their lives. This provides a unique window where women's risk coincides with their access to support systems -- a very rare opportunity."

When there is an opportunity to put supports in place for at-risk pregnant women, the negative impact on kids is likely to significantly decrease, according to Mi

ller-Graff. She noted that one of many potential applications of this research is better standards of screening for violence during prenatal exams.

"When we can do this research and do it well, we stand to make a huge impact for the health of moms and young children," she said.


Disclaimer: anxietycentre.com is not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted at anxietycentre.com by contributing institutions or for the use of any information throughout anxietycentre.com's system.


The combination of good self-help information and working with an experienced anxiety disorder coach, counselor, or therapist is the most effective way to address anxiety disorder and its many symptoms. Until the core causes of anxiety are addressed - the underlying factors that motivate apprehensive behavior - a struggle with anxiety disorder can return again and again. Identifying and successfully addressing anxiety's underlying factors is the best way to overcome problematic anxiety.


For more information about our Anxiety Counseling option; our Available Anxiety Therapists; to Book An Appointment with one of our anxiety therapists; common Anxiety Signs and Symptoms; common Anxiety Attack Symptoms; the symptoms of panic attack disorder; anxiety Recovery Support area; information about Anxiety; and our Anxiety 101 section; or click on the appropriate link or graphic below:

Anxiety Counseling
Learn More
Available Therapists
Learn More
Book An Appointment
Learn More
Anxiety Symptoms
Learn More
Anxiety Attack Symptoms
Learn More
Panic Attack Symptoms
Learn More
Recovery Support
Learn More
Anxiety
Learn More
Anxiety 101
Learn More

Return to our anxiety research page.

Authors: Jim Folk, Marilyn Folk, BScN. Last updated November 20, 2018.

anxietycentre.com: Information, support, and coaching/counseling/therapy for problematic anxiety and its sensations and symptoms, including the latest in anxiety research: Prenatal Exposure To Violence Leads To Increased Toddler Aggression Toward Mothers.