Assessing battered women for the presence of mild brain injuries

Kathleen Marie Coffey-Guenther, Marquette University


Research on domestic violence indicates that the intensity and severity of battering incidents frequently result in significant injuries to women, particularly to the victim's head, neck and face. The purpose of this study was to determine the relationship between the actual physical assaults to the head as sustained in battering incidents and those symptoms noted in battered women that have been traditionally viewed as "psychological" in origin. A sample group of battered women was given a neuropsychological battery of selected assessment instruments commonly utilized in the diagnosis of mild brain injury, with an emphasis on attention/concentration, memory, problem-solving and speed of mental processing abilities. Test results of the sample group were compared to normative populations as described in the neuropsychology literature. Additionally, the affective, somatic and behavioral symptoms of battered women were examined via the use of two symptom screening measures assessing post-traumatic stress disorder and post-concussion syndrome. Data analysis was completed on 27 battered women who reported that they had sustained injuries to the head, neck or face secondary to battering in domestic violence disputes. Test results from the sample group as compared to normative data suggested that the battered women in the sample demonstrated deficits in their performance across cognitive domains. Specifically, impairments were noted in more complex tasks of divided attention, visual scanning, and visual perceptual abilities. Tests of visual memory suggested reduced abilities in attention to detail and encoding strategies, possibly related to the recency of injury to the head. General performance across domains was reduced for younger women in the sample group (aged 20-39 years). Measures of affective, somatic and behavioral symptoms suggested that the battered women in this sample group did not endorse clinical symptomology of post-traumatic stress disorder, however the group did endorse symptoms of post-concussion syndrome. Recency of injury was found to significantly affect performance on the neuropsychological battery. These findings indicate that battered women who sustain injuries to the head, face and neck secondary to battering may in fact demonstrate cognitive, affective, somatic and behavioral symptoms indicative of mild brain injury. Continuing research is needed to further investigate the relationship between brain injuries and the symptoms presented in battered women.

Recommended Citation

Coffey-Guenther, Kathleen Marie, "Assessing battered women for the presence of mild brain injuries" (1998). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9901722.