Bridging Disciplinary Boundaries (January 11 - 14, 2007)

Friday, January 12, 2007: 2:00 PM-3:45 PM
Seacliff B (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
The Economic and Psychosocial Toll of Intimate Partner Violence across Women's Lifespan
Organizer:Laura McCloskey, PhD, University of Pennsylvania
Discussant:Sandra Danziger, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Effects of Adolescent Domestic Violence, Poverty and Depressive Symptoms on Adult Depressive Trajectories among Women Who Experienced an Unintended Adolescent Pregnancy
Taryn Lindhorst, PhD, Monica Oxford, PhD
Beyond Work Participation: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Low-Income Women's Career Trajectories
Diane Purvin, PhD
Recent Partner Violence and Women's Patterns of Employment: The Illinois Families Study
Stephanie Riger
Societal and Individual Costs of Intimate Partner Violence
Laura McCloskey, PhD
Abstract Text:

Most research on the effects of intimate partner violence is based on cross-sectional studies of women, measuring adjustment in the near aftermath of abuse. Relatively little is known about how partner violence early in a woman's life might influence her mental health or her economic and life adjustment years later. Although psychological outcomes have been the focus of much of the research on violence against women, economic outcomes are certainly of equal importance, are probably related to mental health outcomes, but are seriously understudied. Tracing the economic toll of partner violence is a new and important area in the study of how violence derails women's lives. A better understanding of how intimate partner violence affects women's ability to gain skills or make a living could inform social and family policy. The papers in this symposium present new findings from four different research studies examining how women's lifetime exposure to intimate partner violence affects their economic development and psychosocial adjustment over their lifecourse. Findings are based on qualitative (Purvin) and quantitative (Lindhorst, McCloskey, Riger) methods, and prospective (Lindhorst, Riger) and retrospective (Purvin, McCloskey) research designs. The findings reveal the different threads of women's economic lives which are undone by abusive partners and the depression and hardship such abuse imposes. Women who enter into abusive relationships early in their lives are at special risk for later mental health problems and economic hardship. In a longitudinal study of 234 teen-age mothers, Lindhorst finds that more than two-thirds experienced some intimate partner violence and that exposure to partner violence accounted for later adult depression, controlling for poverty. Purvin describes results from in-depth interviews of 44 women receiving welfare who recount the early experiences of partner violence and the unique ways such abuse interrupted their plans and goals, especially in the areas of education, job training, and employment. Riger presents findings from a large-scale prospective study of nearly 1,000 women in Illinois, followed up during the early phases of welfare reform, entering the welfare-to-work programs. Riger's findings indicate that recent exposure to violence reduces women's participation in the labor force, although women with past but not present abuse are resilient. Finally, McCloskey's study of 300 women outpatients in Massachusetts investigates several dimensions of the costs of partner violence, including direct costs to society via the pressure placed on social services and the health care system, and indirect costs including lost productivity and income to the women. These findings, from very different sampling sources and using quite different methods, converge on a similar portrait of women's lives encumbered by violence, even from an early age. Sandra Danziger will discuss these papers in light of current research on women and poverty, to explain how the research lens on the gendered sources of women's unemployment and poverty. Violence against women is not a topic skirting the fringe of poor women's experiences, but is very much central to their struggle against poverty and unemployment.

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