Women with histories of interpersonal violence are poorly identified because of barriers in self-disclosure. This study identified differences on maternal health and child behavior between women who report filing a restraining order (RO) and those who do not among a nonreferred sample of women living in high-crime neighborhoods.


During a maternal interview mothers were asked whether they ever filed a RO, the victim/defendant relationship, the number of times, and the year of the filing. Four types of violence were coded independently based on maternal narratives: verbal harassment, verbal threats or intimidation, physical assault, and destruction of property. We controlled for differences between RO and non-RO groups regarding demographic background, partner characteristics, other types of maternal past victimization, and use of alcohol and illicit drugs. Outcomes for mothers include partner aggression (Conflict Tactics Scale-R), perception of health and bodily pain (SF-36 Health Survey), distress symptoms (SCL90-R), posttraumatic stress (PTS)-related symptoms, and partial posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis (modified Diagnostic Interview Schedule PTSD-Module). Outcomes for the child include partner aggression (Conflict Tactic Scale-R), behavior problems (CBC 2–3 or Child Behavior Checklist), and PTS-related symptoms (PTS-related symptom checklist).


One hundred sixty patients between 3.0 to 6.1 years who resided within five residential ZIP codes with a high rate of local crime in the City of Boston were drawn from a pediatric care clinic practice. Patients were participants of a larger study about the impact of community violence on mother-child relations.


Sixty-four (40%) of 160 mothers reported a history of filing a RO against a current boyfriend or husband (39%), ex-boyfriend or husband (44%), someone known (8%), or other (9%), with a mean of 3.9 years (standard deviation = 3.5 years) since RO filing. After controlling for covariates of marital status, immigrant status, public assistance, and lifetime sexual victimization, we found a significant multivariate analysis of covariance group effect on maternal outcomes. Analysis of covariance analyses indicated that mothers in the RO group experienced higher current partner verbal aggression and physical violence to mother, poorer health, and higher PTS-related symptoms, compared with mothers in the non-RO group. More mothers in the RO group met partial lifetime PTSD diagnosis. Unadjusted for maternal covariates, the multivariate analysis of variance analyses on child outcomes (partner aggression to child, behavior problems, and PTS-related symptoms) indicated a nonsignificant group effect.


Among dyads residing in high-risk crime areas, the incidence of RO histories is substantive considering this was a nonshelter, nonreferred sample. The inquiry about the history of a RO may provide a new and efficient marker to quality of current partner relationship, maternal health, and maternal stress-related symptomatology.

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