Interpersonal Violence and Perinatal Mental Health

Jane Fisher, Steph McKelvie, Susan Rees

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


The World Health Organization (2002) defines (United Nations General Assembly 1993) any act of violence against women in their families, the general community, or perpetrated by the state as gender-based violence. The Declaration and Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing, 1995, elaborates the definition of gender-based violence as being acts that “. . . result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women [and girls], including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life” (United Nations 1995). Although there is variation in prevalence between countries and cultures, violence against women is a universal phenomenon. It encompasses a broad range of forms of abuse, but the World Health Organization considers violence to be the principal gender-related cause of general health and common mental health problems among women. For most of the twentieth century, violence against women received scant research attention or recognition by clinical services, researchers, and policy-makers. However, there has been a marked increase in recent decades in recognition of the prevalence of violence, the disproportionate risks that women face of exposure to violence, and of the nature of its consequences for health. Violent transgressions of the human rights of females begin prior to birth and occur across the life course. Gender-based acts of violence take place in domestic, institutional, and general community settings. They encompass, but are not limited to, sexual abuse of girls, female genital mutilation, dowry-related violence, and other harmful traditional practices; sexual harassment and intimidation at work; trafficking; and forced abortion or sterilization. Some groups, including women who are indigenous or members of ethnic or religious minority groups, women who are occupying low socioeconomic positions, women with disabilities, and women who are refugees or asylum seekers, are especially vulnerable. Experiencing or witnessing interpersonal violence, especially when it occurs within households, incurs fear and is harmful to health, including perinatal mental health (Fisher and Cabral de Mello 2015; Malhotra and Shah 2015). In order to comprehend the relationship between experiences of violence and perinatal mental health problems and their implications for clinical practice, policies and programs, and research, four illustrative examples are considered.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMental Health and Illness of Women. Mental Health and Illness Worldwide
EditorsPrabha S. Chandra, Helen Herrman, Jane Fisher, Anita Riecher-Rössler
Place of PublicationSingapore
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9789811023699, 9789811003714
ISBN (Print)9789811023675
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2019


  • Interpersonal violence
  • Male child preference
  • Childhood sexual abuse
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Perinatal mental health

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