Risk of Children’s Low IQ Increases by 50% with Abused Mothers

By Amelia Harris

Staff Writer for Wake Up World

A study conducted by epidemiologists from the University of Manchester investigated how having an abused mother impacted children’s intelligence. A score of 100 is considered typical IQ, while 90 is considered low IQ. (1)

While there’s debate over whether or not IQ tests provide an adequate measurement of intelligence, IQ scores do correlate with certain social and behavioral outcomes. One study from 2009 found that having higher intelligence in youth was connected to positive mental and physical health outcomes at age 40.  (1, 2)

The research team used data from The University of Bristol’s Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. They examined data from 3,997 mother-child pairs to study the connection between domestic violence, also called intimate partner violence (IPV), and a child’s intelligence at eight years old. (1)

Impact of Domestic Violence on IQ

Among children of mothers who did not report domestic violence, 13% had an IQ below 90 at the age of eight. For children, mothers who experienced intimate partner violence during pregnancy or the first six years of their child’s life, 22.8% had low IQ. This makes children of abused mothers almost 50% more likely to have a low IQ. (1)

This likelihood increases even more when domestic violence occurs repeatedly. Among children of mothers who are abused repeatedly during pregnancy and the first six years of their child’s life, 34.6% have an IQ below 90. So children of repeatedly abused mothers were almost three times more likely to have a low IQ score at the age of eight. (1)

Dr. Kathryn Abel from The University of Manchester led the research team. She told The University of Manchester’s news site, “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 behavioral 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.” (3)

She continued, “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.” (3)

Support and Intervention

In The University of Bristol’s Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, 17.6% of the mothers reported having experienced emotional violence. And 6.8% of the mothers reported physical violence. (1)

Dr. Hein Heuvelman is a Senior Research Associate in Mental Health Epidemiology at The University of Bristol. He told The University of Manchester’s news site, “Exposure to domestic violence is common for children in the UK 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.” (3, 4)

He added, “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 prioritize their future development.” (3)

Article Sources:

  1. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/11/191126075232.htm
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2772900/
  3. https://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/news/children-of-abused-mothers-50-more-likely-to-have-low-iq/
  4. http://www.bristol.ac.uk/social-community-medicine/people/hein-p-heuvelman/overview.html

About the author:

Amelia Harris is a writer and eco-activist, interested in health and all things esoteric, with a passion for sharing good news and inspiring stories. She is a staff writer for Wake Up World.

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