Experiences of physical and emotional intimate partner violence during the COVID-19 pandemic: a comparison of prepandemic and pandemic data in a longitudinal study of Australian mothers

Kelly M. FitzPatrick, Stephanie J. Brown, Kelsey Hegarty, Fiona K. Mensah, Deirdre Gartland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: There is a lack of longitudinal population-based research comparing women's experiences of intimate partner violence (IPV) prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using data from the Mothers' and Young People's Study, the prevalence of physical and emotional IPV in the first year of the pandemic is compared with earlier waves of data. DESIGN: A prospective pregnancy cohort of first-time mothers in Melbourne, Australia was followed up over the first decade of motherhood, with a quick response study conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic. 422 women completed the primary exposure measure (IPV; Composite Abuse Scale) in the 1st, 4th and 10th year postpartum and the additional pandemic survey (June 2020-April 2021). OUTCOME MEASURES: Depressive symptoms; anxiety symptoms; IPV disclosure to a doctor, friends or family, or someone else. RESULTS: Maternal report of emotional IPV alone was higher during the pandemic (14.4%, 95% CI 11.4% to 18.2%) than in the 10th (9.5%, 95% CI 7.0% to 12.7%), 4th (9.2%, 95% CI 6.8% to 12.4%) and 1st year after the birth of their first child (5.9%, 95% CI 4.0% to 8.6%). Conversely, physical IPV was lowest during the pandemic (3.1%, 95% CI 1.8% to 5.0%). Of women experiencing IPV during the pandemic: 29.7% were reporting IPV for the first time, 52.7% reported concurrent depressive symptoms and just 6.8% had told their doctor. CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest that the spike in IPV-related crime statistics following the onset of the pandemic (typically incidents of physical violence) is the tip of the iceberg for women's IPV experiences. There is a need to increase the capacity of health practitioners to recognise emotional as well as physical IPV, and IPV ought to be considered where women present with mental health problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e081382
JournalBMJ open
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 19 Apr 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • COVID-19
  • Primary Care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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