Objective: To study the incidence of domestic violence in pregnant women attending the antenatal clinic of a local teaching hospital.
Study design: All pregnant women attending their first antenatal clinic in Tsan Yuk Hospital between 11th August and 3rd November, 1998 were interviewed by a designated research nurse (Y.Y.J.L.) using a standard questionnaire (Abuse Assessment Screen) to detect the incidence of domestic violence, the nature of violence, the frequency of violence and the perpetrator of abuse. Demographic factors of the abused group were compared with those of the non-abused group using student's t-test and chi-square test.
Results: Pregnant women (631) were interviewed; 113 of them (17.9%) had a history of abuse; 99 women (15.7%) had been abused in the last year; 27 of them (4.3%) had been abused during their current pregnancy; 59 women (9.4%) had been sexually abused in the last year. The husband was the perpetrator in the majority of cases. The nature of violence during pregnancy was mainly psychological in the form of threats of abuse without any physical injury. Risk factors included unplanned pregnancy (P = 0.002) and women with husbands/partners who were unemployed or manual workers (P < 0.05). Unexpectedly, domestic violence occurred more commonly in permanent local residents rather than new immigrants (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: This is probably the first study on the incidence of domestic violence in pregnant women in a Chinese community. The incidence is comparable to that from American studies. Routine screening with structured questions during the antenatal visits is necessary in order to identify the abused women so as to prevent potential trauma and to interrupt existing abuse.