Associations between voluntary and involuntary forms of perinatal loss and child maltreatment among low-income mothers

Acta Paediatr. 2005 Oct;94(10):1476-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.2005.tb01823.x.


Aim: This study explored maternal history of perinatal loss relative to risk of child physical abuse and neglect.

Methods: The 518 study participants included 118 abusive mothers, 119 neglecting mothers, and 281 mothers with no known history of child maltreatment. Interviews and observations were conducted in the participants' homes, and comparisons were made between women without a history of perinatal loss and women with one and multiple losses relative to risk for child maltreatment.

Results: Compared to women with no history of perinatal loss, those with one loss (voluntary or involuntary) had a 99% higher risk for child physical abuse, and women with multiple losses were 189% more likely to physically abuse their children. Compared to women with no history of induced abortion, those with one prior abortion had a 144% higher risk for child physical abuse. Finally, maternal history of multiple miscarriages and/or stillbirths compared to no history was associated with a 1237% increased risk of physical abuse and a 605% increased risk of neglect.

Conclusion: Perinatal loss may be a marker for elevated risk of child physical abuse, and this information is potentially useful to child maltreatment prevention and intervention efforts.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Habitual / epidemiology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude to Health
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality / trends*
  • Maternal Behavior
  • Poverty*
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Care / methods
  • Prevalence
  • Probability
  • Reference Values
  • Risk Assessment
  • Stillbirth / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology