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The Impact of Premenstrual Syndrome on Women’s Parenting

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1 The Impact of Premenstrual Syndrome on Women’s Parenting
Lynn Barry, MSW, Director Canadian Society for the Investigation of Child Abuse Leslie Tutty, Ph.D., RESOLVE Alberta, Faculty of Social Work Betty Thomlinson, Ph.D., Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary

2 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
Advisory Committee Dr. John Pearce – Alberta Children’s Hospital (Child Abuse Service) Robbie Babins–Wagner, MSW – CEO, Calgary Counselling Centre Irene Jackson, MN – Grace Women’s Centre, Foothills Hospital Fay Hodson – Region 3, Calgary Child and Family Services (Child Welfare) Kendra Nixon, RESOLVE Alberta PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

3 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
Acknowledgements Funders: The Canadian Society for the Investigation of Child Abuse The Institute for Gender Research, University of Calgary Research Assistants Janie Christensen Chris Arrowsmith Nathalie Forrest PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

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Literature 5-7% of women suffer such severe PMS that it incapacitates their daily coping (University of Pennsylvania Medical Centre, 1991). One significant daily activity for many women is parenting. Research has linked PMS with: irritability and interpersonal problems (Marean, Fox, Cumming Cumming, 1998); anxiety (Picone & Kirkby, 1990); impulsivity (Howard, Mason & Taghavi, 1994) suggesting the impact of symptoms on families. PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

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Very little research has been conducted on the interplay between PMS and parenting As early as 1986, Brown & Zimmer called for research on the effects of premenstrual syndrome on children and the marital relationship. They expressed concern about a group of women in their study who reported loss of control, child battering, self injury and accidents. PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

6 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
Mohan & Grewal (1990) in India found that children perceived mothers with severe PMS as poorer in the areas of academic, social, recreational, demonstration of love, and personality development, compared to mothers with few PMS symptoms. In 2000, Robinson & Swindle reported that of 92% women with severe PMS symptoms, 77.6% identified relationships with children as an area in which PMS symptoms frequently or always interfere. PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

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Research Design In-depth qualitative interviews (40 women) Parenting Stress Index (Abidin) for parents with children under the age of 12 years) Stress Inventory for Parents of Adolescents (Abidin) for parents with teenage children PMS Checklist Demographic form PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

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Ages of Women – of 40 women PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

9 Racial Origin – of 40 women
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10 Marital Status – of 40 women
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11 Educational Level – of 38 women
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12 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
Occupation – of 37 women PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

13 Number of Children – of 40 women
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14 Ages of Children – of 76 children
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15 Duration of PMS Symptoms in days – of 37 women
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16 Physical Symptoms – of 68 responses
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17 Emotional Symptoms – of 129 responses
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18 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
Quotations “I just couldn’t deal with it. And knowing the whole time that you are doing stupid things that you just, “Why am I doing that?” It’s just like somebody else is in there…like you’re crazy…an awful, awful feeling….” “Some days you’re driving in traffic and pms-ing and you want your machine gun so you can kill all the stupid people in the world! You know…?” PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

19 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
“I get pms for about two weeks before my period actually starts. It starts off kind of mild -- the last couple of days is different. For those two weeks I’ll get tense, irritable, like the least little thing will make me really angry, and it’s much harder to control that anger. And then for one or two days before, I’ll get really sad and every little thing makes me cry, I mean just little things, just a sad thought and I’ll burst into tears”. PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

20 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
“One time …I don’t know what set me off….I was stuffing a turkey and I got so mad I just grabbed the turkey and just threw it across the kitchen. And um…we have Corel dishes and it hit the bowl and …they just explode! These poor kids must have been so scared. And months later I was picking Corel pieces out of the window ledges and oh, it was…awful. I can’t even remember what happened but I don’t know why I snapped but something must have set me off.” PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

21 Mother’s Reaction to Children - of 130 responses
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Quotations “For that week, just wondering when I’m going to snap and, when she’s not even doing anything, all of a sudden like, just I’ll drop something or, something and I’ll just blow – ballistic- and I’ll go, ‘Where did that come from?’” “When I have pms - I’ve got way less resources than [normally], much more emotional triggered. I have this gut reaction of adrenaline that gets triggered when this three year old whines. So when it is whining and stuff, you know, I have many fantasies of hurting my children.” PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

23 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
“I tend to be a bit scary and they become afraid of me. Just, just in that I’m just volatile you know.” Interviewer: So when you say you’re telling her off for things, do you mean you’re scolding her more? “No, screaming at her. Screaming at her is the word for it and she’s got to plug her ears now all the time. ‘Mommy, why are you screaming at me, why are you yelling at me?’ I also force her practically to eat the food and then she’ll puke it up, mind you.” PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

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“I spanked him on his bum really hard and he started crying and I said, ‘I’ll give you something to cry about’, and I spanked him again on his bum. I remember feeling that I could just keep spanking and spanking him. I knew I wouldn’t kill him or do something bizarre, but I didn’t know if I could stop spanking him. Interviewer: But you did stop. “I did, and then I held him tight. What kind of message is that sending to your child – you’re screaming and spanking and then you’re hugging him.” PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

25 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
“I used to break my pots, I used to smack them so hard on my kitchen counters. But I kept thinking, ‘hit the counter and not my kids’. You know, cause I didn’t want to be my mother again. And it probably saved my kids. I’m sure if I ever got loose on my kids, I would have hurt them. I never hurt anybody – husband included- but I’ve broken a lot of things over the years instead of hitting my kids.” PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

26 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
“I tap his hand so he knows. It’s a light little tap. Physical ….but see, my taps get a little harder at PMS. Like this…instead of like this (demonstrating). Never – I’ve never hurt him. But sometimes I am scared that I will hurt him. I just remove myself .” PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

27 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
“I gave them the wooden spoon, both of them. They had been screaming, fighting and I kept trying to get them to calm down and to stop – mommy’s not feeling good. Finally, I just ran and got the spoon, and ran into their rooms and grabbed their hands. I was like, wap, wap and they both just looked at me and started screaming.” PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

28 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
“Susie would not sit on that toilet. And it drove me nuts! That’s one of the things that I remember because it was either throw the potty or throw…her, and I took the potty and I just …and there was pee in the potty so I remember, I didn’t even clean it, it was so bad. I called my mother-in-law and said, ‘I can’t do it today.”  PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

29 Children’s Reactions to Parent – of 88 responses
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30 Mother Reaction to Child POST PMS – of 44 responses
Be positive/Change back to normal % Overcompensate, be more lenient % Feel guilty % No change % Apologize and explain % Doesn’t answer question accurately % PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

31 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
Quotation “I struggle with the guilt thing. Often I do this retrospective, ‘oh, it’s the third day in a row we’ve sat around the house instead of having gone out somewhere.’ I don’t know that I’ve catalogued it this closely (laughs), but I suspect that I over-correct, that I’m trying to compensate. And instead of let’s get back to normal, it’s, ‘these children have put up with me being crazy for two weeks, we’d better be really nice to them.’” PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

32 Child Welfare Involvement
No % Yes % PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

33 Child Welfare Status – of 10 women
Status – investigation to close 3 Status- investigation to open support 2 Status TGO/CA/in care 3 Service provided status unknown Not prepared to discuss 1 CW involvement as child 1 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

34 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
Quotations “Years ago I called Children’s Aid and reported myself. There was a little boy I was watching and he [son] told him to put his finger in his cigarette lighter. And I would never fathom, they were only little, but I didn’t kick him with force. But I took my foot and pushed my son on the butt and said, ‘get walking.’ I just wanted to cool down. I remember calling Child Welfare thinking, ‘Jesus, you just can’t do stuff like that.’ I was obviously my own worst enemy but I thought I was doing the right thing.” PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

35 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
“The PMS got me there [psychiatrist] to begin with, I’m sure of it. Well, my kids learned to [dis]trust people a long time ago after the former head of psychiatry determined that I was emotionally unfit when we went to a few things related to PMS. It was because of PMS…Interviewer: “PMS related things that he tried to take your children away?” “Well, I went to him because it was affecting my parenting. I wanted good role models, they were supposed to provide me with them.” (Her children were all later removed by child welfare.) PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

36 Partner’s Response to Woman’s PMS – of 56 responses
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37 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
Quotations “Well, he doesn’t respond very well to it, not at all. Half of the time he reacts to it and then I react to it and you know, I told him last time, “You know, you could be the mature one and just walk away and not put up with this. But no, you have to get into it and put more into it and then it explodes for both of us.” “He runs!” “It’s like…I have no idea what’s going on here, I’ll see ya in a week, ten days, you know…so I get angry and withdrawn.” PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

38 Women’s Reactions to Partner
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39 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
Quotation “For a while every month I wanted to leave – I wanted to divorce my husband cause he was the biggest creep in the world. And then finally when I started keeping a calendar, I would wait until I had my period and then once the period started I would think “Oh you know, he’s actually not bad, he’s quite a nice guy!” and then I realized the pattern and I started stopping wanting to leave every month because I thought “Okay, if I feel like this only three days a month, it’s not worth it.” PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

40 Women’s Needs from Partner during PMS – of 32 responses
PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

41 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
Quotations “I guess it would be helpful if the kids were taken to a deserted island for a week. That would be helpful.” I just need him to take her….take her away….just so that I wouldn’t have to deal with her”. “I need a little more understanding – sometimes he’s like I do it on purpose – or that I want to be like that.” PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

42 Future for Self if PMS continues – of 36 responses
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43 Future for Family – of 36 responses
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44 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
Quotation “If my PMS continued the way it was? Oh my God. I…can’t even imagine…(silence) it’s really hard to go back, you know? And see but…I might have tried suicide ….I don’t know…It was.. at the time, it was that, you know, this ends…this ends…this ends…and that keeps me going but oh…it was horrible, just horrible, and to dread every month of your life, because you know it’s coming again…it was just…..I can’t even imagine what my family would be like…..” PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

45 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
Quotation “If my PMS continued the way it was? Oh my God. I can’t even imagine…(silence). It’s really hard to go back and see but…I might have tried suicide …I don’t know. At the time, it was that, this ends…this ends…this ends…and that keeps me going but oh…it was horrible, just horrible, and to dread every month of your life, because you know it’s coming again…it was just…I can’t even imagine what my family would be like….” PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

46 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

47 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
“And we especially give thanks that mother’s menstrual period is over for another month!” PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

48 Partner’s Response to Woman’s PMS – of 56 responses
PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

49 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
Quotations “Well, he doesn’t respond very well to it, not at all. Half of the time he reacts to it and then I react to it and you know, I told him last time, “You know, you could be the mature one and just walk away and not put up with this. But no, you have to get into it and put more into it and then it explodes for both of us.” “He runs!” “It’s like…I have no idea what’s going on here, I’ll see ya in a week, ten days, you know…so I get angry and withdrawn.” PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

50 Women’s Reactions to Partner
PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

51 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
Quotation “For a while every month I wanted to leave – I wanted to divorce my husband cause he was the biggest creep in the world. And then finally when I started keeping a calendar, I would wait until I had my period and then once the period started I would think “Oh you know, he’s actually not bad, he’s quite a nice guy!” and then I realized the pattern and I started stopping wanting to leave every month because I thought “Okay, if I feel like this only three days a month, it’s not worth it.” PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

52 Women’s Needs from Partner during PMS – of 32 responses
PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

53 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
Quotations “I guess it would be helpful if the kids were taken to a deserted island for a week. That would be helpful.” I just need him to take her….take her away….just so that I wouldn’t have to deal with her”. “I need a little more understanding – sometimes he’s like I do it on purpose – or that I want to be like that.” PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

54 Future for Self if PMS continues – of 36 responses
PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

55 Future for Family – of 36 responses
PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

56 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
Quotation “If my PMS continued the way it was? Oh my God. I…can’t even imagine…(silence) it’s really hard to go back, you know? And see but…I might have tried suicide ….I don’t know…It was.. at the time, it was that, you know, this ends…this ends…this ends…and that keeps me going but oh…it was horrible, just horrible, and to dread every month of your life, because you know it’s coming again…it was just…..I can’t even imagine what my family would be like…..” PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

57 Strategies Tried for PMS – of 116 responses
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58 Treatments Tried – of 44 responses
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59 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
Quotation “There would be days when I was in my bedroom crying, and my husband asked me what was wrong, can I do anything’ and it’s,‘nobody in the world can do anything.' After a few months, that was enough of that. I just didn’t want to do that anymore. The nice part about PMS is that you can look back on it and say, ‘Oh my God, that was horrible’. But when you’re in it, you’re sad, your life is sad…your whole life is sad and that’s just the way it is and don’t anybody talk to me about it ‘cause that’s the way it is. I don’t do that anymore with Prozac”. PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

60 Implications from the research
Many parents and children need additional support during PMS. PMS may be a predictable risk factor for child abuse in some families. Child welfare workers should ask women if PMS is an issue. If it is, apprehensions could be avoided and in-home support used in a more cost effective manner for specified days of the month. Understanding the effects of PMS on parenting is important for clinicians and public health nurses. PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

61 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
The fact that over one-third of the women interviewed were not using any treatment for their symptoms raises questions about the availability of information about different treatment options. Work against the stigma of acknowledging that PMS can severely affect some women. PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003

62 PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003
“Actions on the part of medical authorities are beneficial for women who fear they’re on their own when it comes to their premenstrual problems. It is hoped that women’s organizations, the medical and others will join in contributing to dialogue that alleviates the misinformation and stigma associated with PMDD.” (Society for Women’s Health Research, 1999) PMS and mothering--RESOLVE Research Day 2003


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