Relationship Factors and Trajectories of Intimate Partner Violence among South African Women during Pregnancy and the Postpartum Period
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a significant public health problem in South Africa. However, there is limited research on whether and how IPV changes during pregnancy and the postpartum period and on the factors that might affect women’s risk during this time. In this study, we describe the mean trajectories of physical and psychological IPV during pregnancy and the postpartum period and examine whether relationship power, partner social support, and relationship stress are associated with women’s trajectories of IPV. Data come from a longitudinal study with 1,480 women recruited during pregnancy between May 2008 and June 2010 at a public clinic in Durban. Women completed behavioral assessments at their first antenatal visit, at fourteen weeks and at nine months postpartum. Women’s experiences of IPV were measured at all three time points and relationship power, partner social support and relationship stress were each measured at the baseline assessment. We used multilevel random coefficients growth modeling to build our models. The mean trajectory for both types of IPV was flat which means that, on average, there was not significant change in levels of IPV over pregnancy and the postpartum period. However, there was significant individual variability in trajectories of IPV over the study period. Women who had higher relationship power had lower levels of physical and psychological IPV over time than women with lower relationship power. Additionally, women with higher relationship stress and lower partner support had higher levels of psychological IPV at pregnancy. Interventions that maximize women’s relationship power and partner social support and minimize relationship stress during this transformative time are needed.