The Impact of Economic Abuse On Maternal Mental Health and Parenting
Intimate partner violence (IPV) has been recognized as a public health concern, particularly because of its effects on the well-being of both victims and their children. The effects of physical and psychological abuse on maternal mental health and parenting have been well established in the literature (Coker et al., 2002; Huang et al., 2010; Levendosky, et al., 2003), however few studies have examined economic abuse and consequently its effect on maternal outcomes.
This paper draws on the spill-over hypothesis which assumes that conflict in one family system negatively influences other family systems (Erel & Burman, 1995). The hypothesis expects that the negative effects of economic abuse will impact the mother’s mental health and, in addition, will have a negative influence on her parenting behavior.
The data come from The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWS), a longitudinal study designed to examine characteristics of parents and the well-being of their children. Multivariate regressions were used to assess the effects of the independent variables on mothers’ mental health and parenting (n=2,305).
The mean age of mothers at baseline was 25.8. Forty-two percent of mothers were non-Hispanic Black, 28% Hispanic and 27% non-Hispanic White. Twenty-eight percent of the sample did not complete a high-school education while 42% had more than a high-school education. Over 45% of the mothers were married to the fathers; another 40% of mothers cohabited with the fathers.
When comparing women who had experienced abuse to women who had not, level of maternal depression, engagement with their child, and the use of spanking were significantly different at Year 1. For maternal depression, economic and psychological abuse at Year 1 had significant effects while physical violence had marginal effects on the likelihood of experiencing a depressive episode at Year 5. The odds ratio of depression for mothers who experienced economic abuse at Year 1 were 1.9 times higher than their counterparts. The odds ratio was 1.4 for psychological abuse.
With respect to engagement activities, psychological abuse at Year 1 had significant effects on engagement activities with children at Year 5. Mothers who experienced psychological abuse at Year 1 engaged in 0.25 activities less with their children than mothers who did not experience psychological abuse.
Regarding spanking, economic and psychological abuse at Year 1 has significant effects on the likelihood of spanking at Year 5. The likelihood of using spanking by mothers who experienced economic abuse at Year 1 were 1.5 times higher than their counterparts. The odds ratio was 1.3 for those who experienced psychological abuse.
This paper provides greater understanding into the relationship between specific types of abuse and maternal outcomes such as depression and parenting over time. Specifically, linking economic abuse with such outcomes provides new results that add to the current literature. Further exploration is needed to fully capture the extent and impact of a experiencing a range of economically abusive behaviors. Such understanding will prompt more policy and intervention strategies to lessen the impact of such abuse on mothers and their children.