The relationship between partner violence and employment was explored using an ethnically diverse longitudinal sample of 285 extremely poor women in Worcester, Massachusetts.
The Worcester Family Research Project (WFRP) inquired into the lives of both homeless and low-income housed mothers and their dependent children. The WFRP was longitudinal in design, with two follow-up interviews about 12 and 24 months after baseline interviews. Of 436 women in the baseline study, 356 were reinterviewed between May 1994 and November 1996 and 327 were again reinterviewed between September 1995 and August 1997. The final sample for analysis included 285 women who completed both follow-up interviews and who had no missing data on the two domains of interest, partner violence and employment history. Controlling for a variety of factors, the analysis showed women who experienced physical aggression or violence by male partners during a 12-month period had only one-third the odds of maintaining employment for at least 30 hours a week for 6 months or more during the subsequent year as women without these experiences. Women with a recent history of physical aggression or violence were significantly more likely than other women to have never married and were also more likely to have a variety of medical and mental health problems. Having received child care, job training, job placement services, and a previous work history were all highly predictive of working at least 30 hours a week for a minimum of 6 months. Childhood experiences with physical violence by parental caretakers, childhood sexual abuse, and prior experiences with severe violence by male partners were not directly associated with the capacity to maintain work. Implications of the findings for welfare-to-work programs and policies are discussed. 44 references and 5 tables