Monday, June 10, 2013

Negative Expectations During Pregnancy Associated With Later Child Abuse, Study Finds

How pregnant women visualize their forthcoming infants' behavior may predict whether they are at risk of abusing them after they are born, suggests research reported in the June JAMA Pediatrics by Lisa Berlin, Ph.D., an associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, and colleagues. They evaluated some 300 pregnant women from various socioeconomic backgrounds as to whether they expected their future infants to behave intentionally in a negative way—for instance, to ignore their mothers to be annoying, to dirty their diapers to be difficult, or to throw things on the floor to make a mess. After the women's babies were born, the women were evaluated to see whether they engaged in harsh parenting. Women who had expected their babies to behave with negative intent were significantly more likely to do so than were women who had not expected their babies to behave with negative intent.

"We believe that this study highlights the value of practitioners (including psychiatrists) attending to mothers' and expectant mothers' attributions about infants' intentions," Berlin told Psychiatric News, adding she believes that changing misperceptions about infant behavior would then reduce child abuse.

Indeed, there is evidence that educating pregnant women and new mothers from lower socioeconomic backgrounds on how to care for their infants and perceive their behavior can reduce child abuse. See Psychiatric News here. More information on the topic of child abuse can be found in American Psychiatric Publishing's Family Violence: A Clinical and Legal Guide.

(Image: Velazquez77/


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