Double Binding, Abusive Intimate Partner Relationships, and Pregnancy

Kristin F. Lutz, Mary Ann Curry, Linda C. Robrecht, M. Kay Libbus, Linda Bullock


The purpose of this study was to extend and integrate the process theories of abuse and becoming a mother in order to provide a contextually appropriate perspective for understanding women's behavioural responses to intimate partner abuse during pregnancy. Double binding is proposed as a construct for understanding intimate partner abuse during pregnancy. Double binding refers to the simultaneous and often conflicting psychological and social processes of binding-in to the unborn child and to the abusive intimate partner that women engage in as they perform the developmental tasks associated with becoming a mother while living with an abusive partner. This construct was developed through an inductive-deductive process using clinical experience, a literature review, and qualitative data from 2 studies of abuse during pregnancy. The authors conclude that double binding is a suitable lens through which to interpret pregnant women's behavioural responses to abuse. They offer suggestions regarding clinical practice and research to further develop appropriate interventions incorporating this construct.

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