Why study obstetrical violence in children and youth?

Assorted objects hanging from a mobile
Assorted objects hanging from a mobile

Different Forms of Violence are faced by Children and Youth globally.

The prevalence varies depending upon the study, however, current studies suggest that more than 50% of children in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and El Salvador experience physical abuse, verbal violence, sexual abuse or coercion and/or psychological abuse.1 The prevalence of sexual abuse survivors may be as much as 26% in Nicaragua and Guatemala.2,3 These experiences have short and long term consequences economically, psychologically and socially as well as predisposing survivors to future adverse outcomes.1 Furthermore, the relative powerlessness of children in much of the Americas places female, pregnant adolescents in jeopardy of being exposed to obstetrical violence in healthcare facilities during pregnancy and birth.  This was the impetus to uncover the Perceptions of Barriers to Quality Maternity Care for Adolescents in the Americas.  Obstetrical Violence among Adolescents who reside in the Americas has been documented in several studies.4,5,6 During times of national crisis, civic unrest and taxed resources, vulnerable adolescents become the “canary in the mine” so to speak.  The purpose of this study is to explore the opinions and perspectives of midwives and perinatal nurses regarding barriers to provision of respectful, quality maternity care of adolescents. Nurses and midwives will be sampled from Jamaica, Trinidad, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic and Brazil.  The White Ribbon Alliance and WHO-endorsed seven domains of respectful maternity care and policies such as the Humanization of Birth Policy in Brazil7 which have not served to curb the psychological and physical abuse and neglect faced by adolescent mothers.  The current COVID19 pandemic8 has served to highlight the neglect, barriers to care and abusive care faced by racialized women internationally. There is a need to identify solutions and strategies to increase the resilience of maternity care providers who are charged with respecting the reproductive and childbirth rights of all girls, everywhere.


  1. Yates, T. M., & Wekerle, C. (2009). The long-term consequences of childhood emotional maltreatment on development: (Mal)adaptation in adolescence and young adulthood [Editorial]. Child Abuse & Neglect, 33(1), 19–21. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2008.12.002
  2. Olsson A, Ellsberg M, Berglund S, Herrera A, Zelaya E, Peña R, Zelaya F, Persson LÅ. Sexual abuse during childhood and adolescence among Nicaraguan men and women: a population-based anonymous survey. Child Abuse & Neglect. 2000 Dec 1;24(12):1579-89.
  3. Speizer IS, Goodwin M, Whittle L, Clyde M, Rogers J. Dimensions of child sexual abuse before age 15 in three Central American countries: Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. Child abuse & neglect. 2008 Apr 1;32(4):455-62.
  4. Pereira Rodrigues D, Herdy Alves V, Santana Vieira R, Morett Romano Leão DC, de Paula E, Machado Pimentel M. Obstetric Violence in the Context of Labor and Childbirth. Journal of Nursing UFPE/Revista de Enfermagem UFPE. 2018 Jan 1;12(1).
  5. Rodrigues, D. P., Alves, V. H., Penna, L., Branco, M., de Souza, R.., & de Mello Padoin, S. M. (2014). Violence in obstetric care in the birth process: a descriptive exploratory study. Online Brazilian Journal of Nursing, 13, 399-401.
  6. Wilson-Mitchell K, Bennett J, Stennett R. Psychological health and life experiences of pregnant adolescent mothers in Jamaica. International journal of environmental research and public health. 2014 May;11(5):4729-44.
  7. Nora CR, Junges JR. Humanization policy in primary health care: a systematic review. Revista de saude publica. 2013;47:1186-200.
  8. Rocca-Ihenacho L, Alonso C. Where do women birth during a pandemic? Changing perspectives on Safe Motherhood during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Global Health Science. 2019 Dec 30;2.
  9. Wilson-Mitchell K, Marowitz A, Lori JR. Midwives’ Perceptions of Barriers to Respectful Maternity Care for Adolescent Mothers in Jamaica: A Qualitative Study. International Journal of Childbirth. 2018 Jan 1;8(1):18-34.

Dr. Karline Wilson-Mitchell
Dr. Karline Wilson-Mitchell

Karline Wilson-Mitchell (DNP, CNM, MSN, FACNM) is an Associate Professor in the Ryerson University Midwifery Education Program, RCYP Collaborator for the Violence Against Children and Youth Team and Steering Committee, and Co-Principal Investigator on Perceptions of Barriers to Quality Maternity Care for Adolescents in the Americas



The views expressed in this blog post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Rights for Children and Youth Partnership project, Ryerson University, or our other partners.

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