Does Domestic Violence during Pregnancy Shape the Mother-Child Bond

Expectant women experience a shift in self-perception from being not a mother, to becoming a mother. Alytia A. Levondosky, Ph.D., and G. Anne Bogat, Ph.D., both of the Department of Psychology at Michigan State University, together with Alissa C. Huth-Bocks, Ph.D., Department of Psychology at Eastern Michigan State University, conducted a study to determine what effect domestic violence (DV) can have during that crucial time for both the mother and child and later as they form their relationship bonds. They said, “This unique period of psychological openness leads to the possibility of a new relationship and experience of love, but the openness which is required for the mental shifts of identity and the development of new internal representations also leaves the woman more vulnerable to psychological damage from significant relationships in her life, including the relationship with her romantic partner.

The researchers used a 10 year longitudal study and determined that domestic violence had a direct effect on parenting behaviors and child attachment relationships. They said, “Our research established that one psychological effect of prenatal DV is its disruption of the normative process of the pregnant woman’s development of maternal mental representation about her fetus as child and self as mother. We also established that these maternal representations during pregnancy were related to observed parenting behaviors and child attachment at age 1.” The team also discovered that maternal depression, income and DV all posed risk factors for attachment issues. They interviewed the women throughout their pregnancies and again at several points until the child turned four years old. They realized that as income increased and DV decreased, the attachment bond became more secure and conversely, attachment was strained as income decreased and DV increased. They concluded, “Thus, overall, our research found that prenatal internal working models of caregiving had profound effects on the developing mother-child relationship, both during pregnancy and after the birth of the child.”

Levendosky, Alytia A., Anne G. Bogat, and Alissa C. Huth-Bocks. “The Influence of Domestic Violence on the Development of the Attachment Relationship between Mother and Young Child.” Psychoanalytical Psychology (July 25, 2011). Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0024561

© Copyright 2011 by By John Smith. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • angie d

    August 4th, 2011 at 4:35 AM

    I think that I would have to say that if I am the partner in a domestic abuse situation when I am pregnant yeah that may affect the way that I will feel about the kid. maybe I am crazy screwed up and am thinking that if only I had not got pregnant then he wouldn’t be hittin on me that way. I know that that is fully placing the blame on someone who did not ask to be in that kind of situation (the baby) but you know that there are some crazy people out there who go around thinking that way.

  • Tara

    August 4th, 2011 at 2:37 PM

    Any man that hits a woman period ought to be so ashamed of himself.
    But any man who hits a woman who is pregnant ought to feel doubly bad.
    And a woman who allows herself to feel differently about the child or fail to bond with the baby as a result, then they need serious counseling to heal that wound.

  • Mandy

    August 4th, 2011 at 7:06 PM

    Yeah,it is a vulnerable period for women and a conflict with her partner can really sour things quick.After all,there is a lot of chemical and hormonal things happening in her body at the time and conflicts can really affect that.So this should be on the do-not list for partners.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.