Experiences from conception to age six have the most important influence of any time in the life

Intimate Partner Violence

Supporting Mother-Infant Relationships Affected by Intimate Partner Violence

Summary of the Project

The Mothering Study:Supporting mother-infant relationships affected by intimate partner violence, is a Maritime-wide study investigating the impact of intimate partner violence on children’s development and the mother-child relationships. Recent research has suggested that intimate partner violence (IPV) may produce alterations in the mother-infant relationship, which in turn may have adverse effects on the child’s psychological and behavioural development. Exposure to IPV has been shown to significantly predict children’s emotional, behavioural, social and cognitive problems. However, there is also evidence that suggests that mothers in violent relationships tend to be more responsive and sensitive to their children, and this may be a key to explaining the successful development of some children exposed to IPV. These theories have not been empirically described.

This multi-site exploratory descriptive study, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, uses community-based research methods to engage both service providers and mothers of infants 36 months of age or less. The study will employ both qualitative and quantitative methods to collect data from service providers and mothers and their infants throughout New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. A Community Research Team has also been created to work directly with the Academic Research Team on the design and implementation of the project and on dissemination of the study’s findings. Collaborating members of various community service, health service, and policy organizations in the three Maritime Provinces are involved in this assessment study.

Goals and Objectives

The purpose of this study is to explore (1) the relationships between mothers and infants exposed to IPV, (2) the association between mother-infant relationships and infant development in families affected by IPV, and (3) the support needs, resources, barriers to support, and preferences for support intervention that promote mother-infant relationships, from either the perspectives of mothers or their service providers. The results of this study will contribute substantive knowledge and understanding of the impact of IPV on mother-infant relationships. This knowledge will guide the design of a targeted intervention to support maternal-infant relationships and infant development. In addition to fulfilling a significant gap in research and knowledge, this research seeks to address international, national, and provincial policy recommendations.

Members of the Team

Academic Researchers


Principal Investigator:

Nicole Letourneau
Faculty of Nursing, 
University of Calgary, AB


Carmen Gill
Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research
University of New Brunswick

Kimberley Critchley
Faculty of Nursing
University of Prince Edward Island

Miriam Stewart
Social Support Research Program
University of Alberta

Doug Willms
Canadian Research Institute for Social Policy
University of New Brunswick

Jean Hughes
Faculty of Nursing
Dalhousie University

Loretta Secco
Faculty of Nursing
University of New Brunswick


Community Researchers


Lyn Barret Bea LeBlanc
Sylvie Boudreau  Christine LeBlanc 
Rona Brown  Marie-Beth LeBlanc  
Barbara Clow  Joanne MacDonald 
Anne Darrah   Darlene MacInnis 
Jeff den Otter  Anne MacMullin 
Stacy Dionne   Suzanne Merner 
Shannon Edgett  Helen Morrison
Steven Fletcher  Michelle Pickles 
Julie Gallant   Bernadette Poirier 
Natalie Gallaway  Sheila Profit 
Elizabeth Godbout  Annette Richard 
Blair Hill  Louise Smith-MacDonald
Theresa Hunt  Elaine Stewart 
Claudette Landry  Wendy Verhoek-Oftedahl 
Joanna LaTulippe-Rochon  Eileen Woodford 
Liz Lautard   



Progress to Date

A total of 28 service providers and 64 mothers were interviewed about the impact of IPV on mothers and infants, and the kinds of supports needed. Quantitative measures were also completed for 51 mother-infant pairs. Analysis and dissemination of findings is ongoing. For more information about the Mothering Study, or to request a summary of study findings, contact Nicole Letourneau, Principal Investigator, at nicolel@unb.ca or Nicole.Letourneau@ucalgary.ca.


Tailor*, K., Letourneau, N. (in press). Gender and sex-based analysis of infants exposed to intimate partner violence. Journal of Family Violence.
Tailor, K. & Letourneau, N. (2012). Forgotten survivors of intimate partner violence: The role of gender and mothering in infant development. Infant Mental Health Journal, 33(3), 294 - 306.
Letourneau, N., Young, C., Secco, L., Stewart, M., Hughes, J., & Critchley, K. (2011). Supporting mothering: Service providers' perspectives of mothers and young children affected by intimate partner violence. Research in Nursing and Health, 34, 192-203.
Letourneau, N., Young, C., Stewart, M., Hughes, J., Secco, L., and Critchley, K. (2011). Supporting mothering: Service providers' prespectives of mothers and infants affected by intimate partner violence. Research in Nursing and Health, 34(3), pp 192-203.

Finding Summary:
Study Results - December 2011

Letourneau, N., Young Morris, C., Gill, C., Secco, L. (2012). The Mothering Study: Mother-   infant relationships in violent families. Paper presented at the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect Conference, Istanbul, Turkey, September 18
Gill , C., Letourneau, N., Secco, L., Young, C. (2011). Mother-infant relationships in violent families. Violence Against Women International Conference, Montreal, QC, May 30.
Secco, L., Letourneau, N., Young, C. (2010). Muriel McQueen Fergusson Family Violence Research Centre National Research Day, Fredericton, NB, November 4.