Psychological and Physical Intimate Partner Aggression Are Associated with Broad and Specific Internalizing Symptoms during Pregnancy

Gabriela R. Perez, Sara M. Stasik-O’brien, Lauren M. Laifer, Rebecca L. Brock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Intimate partner violence (IPV) has serious consequences, particularly during high-risk periods such as pregnancy, which poses a significant risk to maternal mental health. However, it is unclear whether IPV presents a broad risk for psychopathology or is specific to dis-tinct diagnoses or symptom dimensions (e.g., panic, social anxiety). Further, the relative impact of physical versus psychological aggression remains unclear. Methods: One hundred and fifty-nine pregnant couples completed surveys assessing psychological and physical intimate partner aggression unfolding in the couple relationship, as well as a range of internalizing symptoms. Results: Psychological and physical aggression were each associated with broad negative affectivity, which underlies mood and anxiety disorders; however, only psychological aggression demonstrated a unique association. Further, for pregnant women, aggression was uniquely associated with several symptom dimensions characteristic of PTSD. In contrast, men demonstrated a relatively heteroge-neous symptom presentation in relation to aggression. Conclusion: The present study identifies unique symptom manifestations associated with IPV for couples navigating pregnancy and sug-gests psychological aggression can be more detrimental to mental health than physical aggression. To promote maternal perinatal mental health, clinicians should screen for covert forms of psychological aggression during pregnancy (e.g., raised voices, insults), trauma-related distress, and symptom elevations in women and their partners.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1662
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022


  • Couples
  • Internalizing problems
  • Intimate partner aggression
  • Perinatal mental health
  • Pregnancy
  • Psychological aggression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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