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Intelligence in offspring born to women exposed to intimate partner violence: a population-based cohort study

Abel, Kathryn and Heuvelman, Hein and Rai, Dheeraj and Timpson, Nicholas and Sarginson, Jane and Shallcross, Rebekah and Mitchell, Heather and Hope, Holly and Emsley, Richard (2019) Intelligence in offspring born to women exposed to intimate partner violence: a population-based cohort study. Wellcome Open Research, 2019 (4).

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Abstract

Background: Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a risk factor for developmental problems in offspring. Despite a high prevalence of IPV in the UK and elsewhere, the longer-term outcomes of offspring born to exposed mothers remain under-researched. Methods: Population-based cohort study. We assessed IPV prevalence by type and timing for 3,153 mother-child pairs with complete data within our study population and examined associations between IPV and offspring IQ. We used multiple-imputation to evaluate bias due to our exclusion of observations with missing covariate data. Results: Nearly one in five mothers reported IPV during the study period, with 17.6% reporting emotional violence and 6.8% reporting physical violence. Taking into account potential confounders, the IQ scores of children born to mothers exposed to physical violence remained lower than those of maternally unexposed children (full-scale IQ = −2.8 points [95%CI −4.9 to −0.7], verbal IQ = −2.2 [95%CI −4.4 to −0.1], performance IQ = −2.7 [95%CI  −5.0 to −0.5]) and odds of below-average intelligence (IQ<90) remained increased for full-scale (OR 1.48 [95%CI 1.03 to 2.14] and performance IQ (OR 1.48 [95%CI 1.08 to 2.04]) but not verbal IQ (OR 1.06 [95%CI 0.69 to 1.64]). Most physical violence occurred postnatally, and relative odds were most substantial when mothers were exposed to violence across pre-/perinatal and postnatal study periods (OR performance IQ<90 = 2.97 [95%CI 1.30 to 6.82]). Conclusions: Maternal exposure to physical IPV is associated with lower offspring IQ at age 8. Associations persisted after adjusting for potential confounders and were driven by violence occurring postnatally.

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