Exposure to violence during pregnancy increases risk of prematurity and low birthweight, research suggests

April 18, 2016, University of Leicester

In a recent paper published in the Journal of Development Economics, researchers Professor Marco Manacorda (Queen Mary University of London) and Dr Martin Foureaux Koppensteiner (University of Leicester) focused on evidence from the exposure of day-to-day violence in Brazil by analysing the birth outcomes of children whose mothers were exposed to local violence, as measured by homicide rates in small Brazilian municipalities and the neighbourhoods of the city of Fortaleza.

The team estimated the effect of on by comparing mothers who were exposed to a homicide during pregnancy to otherwise similar mothers residing in the same area, who happened not to be exposed to homicides.

The study found that birthweight falls significantly among newborns exposed to a homicide during pregnancy and the number of children classified as being low birthweight increases – and that the effects are concentrated on the first trimester of pregnancy, which is consistent with claims that stress-induced events matter most when occurring early in pregnancy.

The study found:

  • One additional homicide in small municipalities during the first trimester leads to a reduction in birthweight of around 17g
  • Considering the birth weight classification, one extra homicide leads to an increase in the probability of low birthweight by 0.6 percentage points, an 8% increase compared to baseline
  • Results for the neighbourhoods of Fortaleza, where homicides are much more frequent, are considerably smaller (around 15% of the effects for small municipalities), which is consistent with the interpretation that violence is more stress inducing when they are rare
  • Because of the endemic levels of violence in Fortaleza, the team's calculations show that homicides can account for 1% of the incidence of low birthweight and 3.5% of the incidence of very .

Dr Martin Foureaux Koppensteiner from the University of Leicester's Department of Economics explained: "We provide evidence that these effects on birthweight are driven by prematurity rather than growth retardation of full lengths pregnancies, in line with evidence from the medical literature.

"As the mothers examined in the study are likely to live in very similar environments, by exploiting the precise timing of the occurrence of homicides we are able to disentangle the causal effect of homicides from other correlated effects that may otherwise bias these estimates.

"This study used modelled data, which is one of the ways that we can predict causal relationships.

"We also find that socio-economic factors, such as the mothers' low level of education appear to amplify the adverse consequences of violence on birth outcomes, implying that violence compounds the disadvantage that newborns from low socio-economic status already suffer."

Professor Marco Manacorda added: "Our results have the potential to generalize to other settings where violence is endemic, as is true for many middle and low-income countries in Latin America and Africa. The results presented shed light on the additional cost of violence, largely ignored previously, in these countries."

Explore further: Cannabis use in pregnancy linked to low birthweight and intensive care

More information: Martin Foureaux Koppensteiner et al. Violence and birth outcomes: Evidence from homicides in Brazil, Journal of Development Economics (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.jdeveco.2015.11.003

Related Stories

Cannabis use in pregnancy linked to low birthweight and intensive care

April 5, 2016
Use of cannabis during pregnancy is linked to low birthweight and the need for intensive care, reveals an analysis of the available evidence, published in the online journal BMJ Open.

Domestic violence during pregnancy doubles risk of preterm birth and low birth weight

March 8, 2016
Domestic violence by a partner or ex-partner during pregnancy increases the risk of preterm birth, low birth weight and small-for-gestational-age babies, finds a study in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology ...

Do gun restrictions help reduce gun deaths?

March 8, 2016
A study by researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health looked at the associations between firearm-related laws and firearm homicides, suicides, and unintentional injuries and deaths. The paper is ...

An overfed fetus may become an overweight adolescent

April 1, 2016
Higher levels of blood markers in the umbilical cord indicate that the baby has more fat and may continue having more fat into late childhood and adolescence, new research suggests. The results will be presented in a poster ...

New study finds no link between movie, video game violence and societal violence

November 5, 2014
Since the 1920s, scholars and politicians have blamed violence in movies and other media as a contributing factor to rising violence in society. Recently the responses to mass shootings in Aurora, CO and at Sandy Hook Elementary ...

Recommended for you

Little difference between gun owners, non-gun owners on key gun policies

May 17, 2018
A new national public opinion survey from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health finds widespread agreement among gun owners and non-gun owners in their support for policies that restrict or regulate firearms.

Giving employees 'decoy' sanitizer options could improve hand hygiene

May 17, 2018
Introducing a less convenient option for hand sanitizing may actually boost workers' use of hand sanitizer and increase sanitary conditions in the workplace, according to findings in Psychological Science, a journal of the ...

Research shows that sexual activity and emotional closeness are unrelated to the rate of cognitive decline

May 16, 2018
Older people who enjoy a sexually active and emotionally close relationship with their partner tend to perform better at memory tests than sexually inactive older adults on a short-term basis, but this is not the case over ...

New study reveals how electronic health records can benefit clinical trials

May 16, 2018
The study entitled "Long term extension of a randomised controlled trial of probiotics using electronic health records" led by researchers in the Swansea University Medical School and the College of Human and Health Sciences, ...

Latest research strengthens case that early exposure to pollution affects long-term health

May 16, 2018
Research led by the University of Southampton has shown increasing evidence that exposure to air pollution in early life has detrimental long-term health consequences.

Researchers find a connection between left-handedness and low birth weight

May 15, 2018
A team of researchers from Finland, the Netherlands and Japan has found a connection between left-handedness and low baby birth weight. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.