Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health
Volume 41, Number 2, June 2009

Intimate Partner Violence Among Economically Disadvantaged Young Adult Women: Associations With Adolescent Risk-Taking and Pregnancy Experiences

By Lydia O'Donnell, Gail Agronick, Richard Duran, Athi Myint-U and Ann Stueve

CONTEXT: Intimate partner violence negatively impacts the health of substantial proportions of young women in economically disadvantaged communities, where sexual initiation, aggressive behaviors, unintended pregnancies and childbearing are common among adolescents. It is therefore important to assess how adolescent risk behaviors and pregnancy experiences are linked to such violence during young adulthood.

METHODS: Data from 526 participants in the Reach for Health Longitudinal Study who were surveyed during middle school (in 1995–1996 and 1996–1997) and at ages 22–25 (in 2005–2007) provided information on adolescent risk behaviors and pregnancy experiences, as well as experiences of intimate partner violence during young adulthood. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were conducted to identify correlates of intimate partner violence involvement.

RESULTS: As young adults, 29% of women reported having been victims of intimate partner violence in the past 12 months; 21% reported having perpetrated such violence. In multivariate analyses, victimization and perpetration in the last year are positively associated with aggressive behavior in middle school (odds ratios, 1.9 and 2.5, respectively), lifetime number of sex partners (1.3 for both) and having a history of unintended pregnancy or pregnancy problems (1.3 for both). Perpetration also is associated with early sexual initiation (0.5) and living with a partner (1.8).

CONCLUSIONS: It is important to consider women's pregnancy histories in programs aimed at preventing the adverse outcomes of relationship violence and in screening for partner violence in sexual and reproductive health services. Early intervention may help women develop the skills needed for resolving conflicts with peers and partners.




Lydia O'Donnell is deputy director, Gail Agronick was senior research associate, Richard Duran is senior field supervisor, Athi Myint-U is senior research associate and Ann Stueve is distinguished scholar—all in Health and Human Development Programs, Education Development Center, Newton, MA, and New York.