New research by the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom has discovered that 50 per cent of the children of abused mothers are likely to have a low IQ. The study also revealed that in a situation where their mothers experienced physical violence from their partner either in pregnancy or during the first six years of the child’s life, the figure rises to 22.8 per cent.
Low IQ is defined as an IQ score of less than 90, where a normal IQ is considered to be 100. The study examined the link between domestic violence and child intelligence at 8 years old, using 3,997 mother-child pairs from The University of Bristol’s Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. ALSPAC follows children from pregnancy and measures emotional and physical domestic violence from pregnancy until eight years of age.
The intelligence of the children was measured at eight years using the Weschler standardised IQ test. According to the team led by Dr Kathryn Abel, the chance of a low IQ rises to 34.6 per cent if the mother was repeatedly exposed to domestic violence. “Children of women who reported domestic violence in pregnancy or during the first six years of the child’s life are almost 50 per cent more likely to have a low IQ at age 8.” They also find out that 13 per cent of children whose mothers did not experience domestic violence had an IQ of below 90 at 8 years of age.
Dr Abel said: “We already know that 1 in 4 women age 16 and over in England and Wales will experience domestic violence in their lifetime and that their children are at greater risk of physical, social and behavioural problems. “We also know that intelligence in childhood is strongly linked with doing well in adulthood, though there has been little evidence about the risk of low IQ for these children.
“While we cannot conclude that IPV causes low IQ, these findings demonstrate domestic violence has a measurable link, by mid-childhood, independent of other risk factors for low IQ.” 17.6 percent of the mothers in the study reported emotional violence and 6.8 percent reported physical violence.
The findings are independent of other risk factors for low IQ such as alcohol and tobacco use in pregnancy, maternal depression, low maternal education and financial hardship around the child’s birth. Dr Hein Heuvelman, from The University of Bristol added: “Exposure to domestic violence is common for children in most part of the world and an important and often overlooked risk factor in their life chances.
“So knowing the extent to which these already vulnerable children are further affected is a powerful argument for more, better and earlier intervention. “Current support for women experiencing domestic violence is inadequate in some areas and absent in others. Early intervention with these families protects children from harm, but it may also prioritise their future development.”