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Children whose fathers
physically abuse their mothers are at higher risk for acute respiratory
infection and diarrhea, the two leading causes of death for young children
Analysis of a population
survey of Bangladesh has exposed the relationship between violence against
mothers and child health, according to researcher Jay Silverman.
"Those who reported violence against their wives, the children of those women
were far more likely to have recently report acute respiratory infections and
diarrhea 37 to 65 percent more likely than those in those families where there
was not such abuse."
In their research, Silverman and his colleagues at the Harvard School of Public
Health were careful to account for other factors that contribute to disease,
such as sanitation, education and poverty. He says the correlation between
abuse and illness has several possible explanations.
"Directly, men who are more abusive to their wives are also more likely to be
physically and sexually abusive towards their children. So obviously that abuse
would have a tremendous direct health impact. Indirectly, the resulting trauma
and anxiety that we see among children in such families, often leads to
suppression of the immune system over time."
This finding is particularly
alarming, he says, considering how common partner abuse is in Bangladesh. If
anything, he adds, this study may underestimate the prevalence, and therefore
the impact, of domestic violence.
We saw over forty percent of those folks reporting that they had been abusive
physically or sexually to their wives in the past year. We know from other
studies that actually when we go to a lifetime we're looking at three quarters
of all men reporting physical or sexual violence against their wives at some
The implications for public health
policy are clear, according to Silverman.
We have to be considering gender-based violence against women, violence from
husbands, as a true priority concern within our child survival programs.
Silverman's report is published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent
Translated by Buasawan Simmala