Objective: To examine prevalence, frequency, severity, and patterns of intimate partner violence (IPV) during the first 24 months' post partum within a multiethnic cohort of adolescents.
Design: A prospective study of adolescent girls followed up for 24 months into the postpartum period. Follow-up surveys were completed at 3, 6, 12, 18, and 24 months' post partum. Overall, 74% completed at least 4 of the 5 follow-up surveys.
Setting: Postpartum unit at a university teaching hospital in Galveston, Tex.
Participants: A total of 570 adolescents (18 years or younger; 219 Mexican Americans, 182 African Americans, and 169 European Americans) completed face-to-face interviews within 48 hours of delivery and returned at least 4 of 5 follow-up surveys.
Main outcome measures: Prevalence of IPV and frequent and severe IPV.
Results: Prevalence of IPV was highest at 3 months' post partum (21%) and lowest at 24 months (13%). The percentage of assaulted mothers who experienced severe IPV increased from 40% to 62% across this period. Seventy-five percent of mothers reporting IPV during pregnancy also reported IPV within 24 months following delivery. Of importance, 78% who experienced IPV during the first 3 postpartum months had not reported IPV before delivery. Ethnic differences in IPV were observed at 3, 6, and 18 months' post partum.
Conclusions: Adolescents are at high risk for experiencing IPV during the postpartum period. Frequent screening for IPV by health care practitioners is critical to maximize detection.