Intergenerational violence: The exposure to age of menopause

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Dr. Manu Lakshmi

30 Jun 2022

Exposure to violence has always been associated with a range of mental and physical health problems in women. With the elevated rates of intimate partner violence and child abuse during this COVID pandemic, timely research on women’s exposure to violence has revealed a far more disturbing impact on women’s health. Recent research in intergenerational violence exposure has revealed an additional connection to the age of menopause in women.

Early reproductive aging by reaching menopause before the age of 45 years, is associated with an increased risk of various health issues that require menopause treatment in Chennai. According to the study results published in the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), a woman’s exposure to violence can consist of her own as well as her child’s abuse, collectively known as intergenerational violence, that progresses her reproductive aging to result in a younger age of menopause.

What is intergenerational violence?

Violence or ill-treatment experienced during childhood, when repeated by a child as they grow older within their own adult family is called intergenerational violence. When a victim of violence repeats the actions of their abuser in some regard and victimizes someone else, it essentially becomes intergenerational violence. It can be better understood as an attitude “it happened to me, so it can happen to you”. This attitude often results in the victimization of one’s own children, their spouse, or even a sibling.

Women are exposed to intergenerational violence when a victim of violence repeats the actions of their abuser in some regard and victimizes the woman and/or someone else in the family. In the case of victimized girls, it so happens that there is a tendency that them to be re-victimized as women by ending up with an abusive partner. Such repeated situations of violence later in life often create unsafe and unhealthy conditions for children and subsequently, create a pattern of violence that goes on for generations, making intergenerational violence, so prevalent in our society. 

Intergenerational violence exposure among women

Intimate partner violence is a major women’s health and rights issue. This violence has devastating consequences on a woman’s health at individual, family and community levels because it tends to run in families and passed on to generations with no improvement over time. To formulate methods of prevention and intervention that can halt this recurrence of violence to women, important clues can be taken by understanding the mechanism of transmission of intergenerational violence. Health professionals such as the Best gynecologist in Chennai are well placed to identify women at risk and alter health conditions characterized by interpersonal violence.

There is a high risk of girls exposed to violence becoming victims as adults and are more likely to have children who are treated violently as compared to non-abused women. This intergenerational transmission of violence could be serious as it impairs maternal well-being and infant health and development especially when women suffer violence during pregnancy and early motherhood. The intergenerational effects of being exposed to childhood maltreatment and prenatal intimate partner violence also play a major role in affecting a woman’s health.

Studies of risk factors suggest that early exposure to violence is linked to a higher risk of involvement with violence in later life. Women have a higher risk of being sexually assaulted in adulthood if they were victims of sexual abuse as a child. Previous studies have also shown that childhood sexual and physical abuse are associated with earlier menarche or puberty. Additionally, the latest research has revealed the connection of intergenerational violence with faster reproductive aging, leading to early menopause treatment in Chennai. Women attaining menopause, particularly before 45 years of age are at increased risk of conditions like heart disease, osteoporosis, and premature death.

Intergenerational violence leads to early onset menopause

One of the new studies is the first to look at intergenerational violence exposure and its effect on the age of menopause, published in the article “Association between intergenerational violence exposure and maternal age of menopause.” The study was designed to evaluate how maternal menopause timing is independently accelerated by exposure to both maternal and child violence. Results of the study concluded that earlier age of menopause in women was associated with both the physical abuse of the mother as a child and her exposure to her child’s sexual abuse.

Mothers who specifically underwent physical abuse in childhood and had a child who experienced regular sexual abuse reached menopause at an advanced pace of 8.78 years than mothers without a history of personal abuse or abuse of their child.

The devastating effect of exposure to violence which seems to affect subsequent generations is well emphasized in this study. The substantial health-related burden of intergenerational violence includes a high risk of early onset menopause and subsequent long-term adverse health effects as potential outcomes. This study is the first to find that age of natural menopause is associated with intergenerational violence exposure.

Intergenerational violence exposure and reproductive aging – a biological link

A cumulative negative effect has generally been shown to be the impact of violence on health in general and on reproductive aging in particular. Investigations in this respect have shown the negative impact is most likely related to chronic stress.

Allostatic load refers to the overall burden of chronic stress linked with biological risk. It involves the interaction of different physiological systems at varying degrees of activity. When environmental challenges exceed the individual ability to cope, then allostatic overload ensues. This relationship in theory is mediated by dysfunction of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. 

Additionally, the HPA axis produces physiological effects in accordance with allostatic adaptations to repeated, unpredictable, acute stressors. Thus, poorer health outcomes in women, by accelerated aging may result from various forms of violence.

Data shows that early onset menopause is associated with accelerated aging that needs assessment at gynecology hospitals in Chennai in order to prevent long-term health outcomes and multimorbidity. Having determined that intergenerational violence accelerates reproductive aging, addressing the issue to interrupt the devastating cycle of violence will require multiple sectors, including health care, social change, policy, and education.

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