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Secondary Data Analysis on the Etiology, Course, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence Against Extremely Poor Women (From Violence Against Women and Family Violence: Developments in Research, Practice, and Policy, 2004, Bonnie Fisher, ed. -- See NCJ-199701)

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 2004
10 pages
This study determined patterns of partner violence against poor single mothers, with attention to childhood and adult risk markers for partner violence; assessed the relationship between partner violence and substance abuse among poor mothers; and investigated the relationship between partner violence and women's capacity to maintain employment over time.
Data were obtained from the Worcester Family Research Project, a comprehensive investigation into the lives of 202 homeless and 216 low-income housed (never homeless) single mothers living in Worcester, MA (Bassuk et al., 1996). This longitudinal study interviewed the women at three points in time, i.e., at baseline and at approximately 12 months and 24 months. Detailed information was obtained on interpersonal violence in the lives of these extremely poor women across their lifespans. To be eligible for the study, the homeless women had to have lived in a shelter for at least 7 days and have been pregnant or had custody of at least one dependent child younger than 17 years old. The comparison group of low-income housed mothers was randomly selected from women who visited Worcester's Department of Public Welfare. They also had to be pregnant or had custody of at least one dependent child younger than 17 years old and be currently receiving public assistance. Of the 436 women in the baseline study, 356 were reinterviewed between May 1994 and November 1996 (follow-up 1), and 327 were again reinterviewed between December 1995 and August 1997 (follow-up 2). At baseline, mothers were on average 27 years old. Researchers found that poor women who experienced childhood sexual abuse were significantly more likely to have experienced intimate partner violence as adults. Two aspects of women's social supports in adulthood were significantly associated with increased risk of partner violence in the multivariate model. Women who experienced no partner violence had significantly higher levels of emotional support from nonprofessional network members and significantly less conflict in their nonprofessional network than women who reported partner violence. In addition, women with lower self-esteem were more likely to be victimized by abusive partners. Women were at greatest risk for partner violence when their partners had substance abuse problems. A partner's poor work history also predicted increased risk for partner violence, but at a less pronounced rate. The study found that although the lifetime prevalence of intimate partner violence was high among poor women, most experiences of such violence were episodic and limited over time. The study also found that intimate partner violence was predictive of subsequent drug (but not alcohol) abuse in poor women. Further, the study found that women who had experienced recent intimate partner violence had less than one-third the odds of maintaining work over time. Implications of these findings are drawn for researchers and practitioners. 20 references

Date Published: January 1, 2004