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Intimate partner violence and child outcomes at age 10: a pregnancy cohort
  1. Deirdre Gartland1,2,
  2. Laura J Conway1,2,
  3. Rebecca Giallo1,2,3,
  4. Fiona K Mensah2,
  5. Fallon Cook1,2,
  6. Kelsey Hegarty4,5,
  7. Helen Herrman6,
  8. Jan Nicholson7,8,
  9. Sheena Reilly9,
  10. Harriet Hiscock2,10,
  11. Emma Sciberras11,
  12. Stephanie J Brown1,2,4
  1. 1Intergenerational Health Research Group, Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2Department of Paediatrics, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  3. 3School of Psychology and Public Health, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  4. 4Department of General Practice, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  5. 5Centre of Family Violence Prevention, Royal Women's Hospital, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  6. 6Orygen and Centre for Youth Mental Health, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  7. 7Judith Lumley Centre, School of Nursing and Midwifery, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  8. 8School of Early Childhood and Inclusive Education, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  9. 9Menzies Health Institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  10. 10Health Services Research Group, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
  11. 11School of Psychology, Deakin University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Deirdre Gartland, Intergenerational Health, Murdoch Childrens Research Institute, Parkville, Victoria, Australia; deirdre.gartland{at}


Objective Assess the mental health, physical health, cognitive and language development of 10-year old children in families where mothers have reported intimate partner violence (IPV) compared with children with no reported IPV exposure.

Design Prospective pregnancy cohort. Maternal report of IPV (Composite Abuse Scale) at 1, 4 and 10 years. Maternal and direct assessment of child mental health (probable psychiatric diagnosis, anxiety and emotional/behavioural difficulties), cognition (IQ and executive function), language (general, pragmatic and receptive) and physical health at 10 years.

Setting A subsample of 615 mother–child dyads drawn from a pregnancy cohort of 1507 nulliparous women recruited from six public hospitals in Melbourne, Australia.

Results Any IPV exposure from infancy to age 10 was associated with poorer child outcomes at age 10. Specifically, twice the odds of a probable psychiatric diagnosis, emotional/behavioural difficulties, impaired language skills (general and pragmatic), and having consulted a health professional about asthma or sleep problems. IPV exposure at age 10 associated with two to three times higher odds of all mental health outcomes, elevated blood pressure and sleep problems. Early life exposure alone (at 1 and/or 4 years) associated with three times higher odds of a general language problem and asthma at age 10.

Conclusion The high prevalence of IPV and increased risk of poorer health and development among children exposed highlights the burden of ill health carried by children in families experiencing IPV. Fewer difficulties where exposure was limited to the early years builds the case for better identification, understanding and resourcing of effective early intervention.

  • child abuse
  • psychology
  • social work
  • epidemiology

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  • Contributors DG contributed to the study design, data collection, conducted analysis and wrote the paper; LJC conducted the analysis and contributed to the writing and editing of the manuscript; RG contributed to the study design, data collection, data analysis, writing and editing the manuscript; FKM contributed to the study design, data analysis and editing of the manuscript; KH, HH, SR, JN and ES contributed to the study design and edited the manuscript; FC contributed to the analyses and edited the manuscript; SJB conceived of the study and study design, contributed to data analysis and edited the manuscript.

  • Funding The Maternal Health Study was supported by project grants from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC; #199222, #433006 and #491205) and Australian Rotary Health. Stephanie Brown holds an NHMRC Senior Research Fellowship (#1103976). Rebecca Giallo, Fiona Mensah and Emma Sciberras hold NHMRC Career Development Fellowships (#1123900, #1111160 and #1110688). Emma Sciberras holds a Veski Inspiring Women’s Fellowship. Harriet Hiscock holds an NHMRC Practitioner fellowship (#1136222). Deirdre Gartland and Laura Conway are supported by the NHMRC Safer Families Centre (#1116690). Laura Conway and Fallon Cook hold Lifecourse Postdoctoral Fellowships supported by the Royal Children’s Hospital Research Foundation. Research at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute is supported by the Victorian Government Operational Infrastructure Support Programme.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was obtained through La Trobe University (2002/38), Royal Women’s Hospital (2002/23), Southern Health (2002-099B), Angliss Hospital and the Royal Children’s Hospital, (27056A, 33127A, 34058A and 36189A) Melbourne, Australia.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. Further information about the Maternal Health Study can be obtained from the LifeCourse website ( The Maternal Health Study data are not open access. Requests for collaboration can be sent to Professor Brown ( and will be considered by the Maternal Health Study investigative team.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.

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