The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Domestic Violence Among Unauthorized Immigrant Parents Reported for Child Maltreatment: Findings from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, II (NSCAW II)

Sunday, January 19, 2014: 11:15 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 002A River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Ijeoma Nwabuzor Ogbonnaya, PhD, Postdoctoral Research Associate, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Megan A. Finno, MSW, PhD Student, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Patricia L. Kohl, PhD, Associate Professor, Washington University in Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO
Background and Purpose: Qualitative attention has been given to barriers faced by some immigrant women and children when seeking help from domestic violence agencies. However, little is known about immigrants’ experiences with domestic violence, in the context of the child welfare system. The current study compares domestic violence experiences and case outcomes among legal immigrants, unauthorized immigrants, and U.S. citizens reported for child maltreatment. This study may shed light on the number of immigrant parents currently involved with the child welfare system who experience domestic violence, and whether these parents’ experiences vary depending on citizenship status.

Methods: This analysis used data from the second round of the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW II). The sample included biological parents who were U.S. citizens (n= 2,838), legal immigrants (n= 91), and unauthorized immigrants (n= 105). Parents were asked about whether they experienced domestic violence during the past year (measured using the Conflict Tactic Scale 2). In addition, data were collected to assess if (a) domestic violence was the primary abuse type reported and (b) the maltreatment allegation was substantiated. Bivariate analyses were conducted to examine whether the three parent groups differed on self-reports of domestic violence. Multivariate logistic regression analyses were run to determine whether maltreatment allegations of domestic violence (both substantiated and unfounded) were related to parent immigration status.

Results: Results show that legal and unauthorized immigrants did not differ from U.S. citizens in self-reports of domestic violence; approximately 25% of parents reported experiences of domestic violence within the past year (χ2 = 0.0848, p= 0.9049). Yet, unauthorized immigrants were 4.1 times more likely than U.S. citizens to have cases with allegations of domestic violence as the primary abuse type (p= 0.002). Despite higher rates of alleged domestic violence, unauthorized citizens were notmore likely than U.S. citizens to have these cases substantiated for domestic violence (p=0.640).

Conclusions and Implications:  Unauthorized immigrants involved with child welfare reported similar rates of domestic violence as U.S. citizens, but were more likely to have child maltreatment allegations for domestic violence. This finding, coupled with results that indicated maltreatment reports of domestic violence among unauthorized immigrants were likely to be unfounded, suggests unauthorized immigrants may be over-identified as victims of domestic violence. Reasons for overidentification by reporters could stem from differing cultural norms in gender roles and expectations.  Alternatively, evidence of domestic violence in families with unauthorized parents may be difficult to substantiate, as such parents may be hesitant to admit when domestic violence is present and deny assistance due to fear of repercussion by government authorities. Thus, we recommend that child welfare workers are trained to properly assess the needs of immigrant families, particularly as it relates to domestic violence. This type of cultural competence training may be even more imperative given the increase in U.S. immigrant populations within the past decade.