Abstract: Pathways from Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence to Academic Disengagement (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Pathways from Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence to Academic Disengagement

Saturday, January 19, 2019: 11:15 AM
Union Square 16 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Rachel Voth Schrag, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX
Leila Wood, PhD, Research Assistant Professor, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
NoŽl Busch-Armendariz, PhD, LMSW, MPA, Associate Vice President for Research, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Background and Purpose: Intimate partner violence (IPV) in the lives of women attending college impacts health, mental health, academic success and access to equal education. IPV survivors experience heightened risk for depression, anxiety and PTSD, along with poorer health outcomes. A recent push to understand the prevalence of violence on college campuses has focused primarily on the extent of sexual assault, with less focus or attention on experiences of IPV.  However, negative academic outcomes influenced by IPV may prove particularly pernicious, effecting longer-term economic health and well-being long past the end of college or of a relationship. Previous research has indicated that campus wide initiatives such as Green Dot may reduce rates of IPV, however the role of the campus climate and perception of campus safety in moderating the impact of IPV on individual academic outcomes remains unknown.  To further the knowledge in this area, the current study explores the pathways through which physical and psychological IPV impact survivor academic disengagement. Specifically, the study evaluates the extent to which the impact of IPV on academic disengagement is mediated through mental health symptomology (depression) and moderated through perception of the campus climate.

Methods: Students at eight academic campuses in a southwestern state were randomly selected to complete at online survey including validated measures of physical and psychological IPV, academic disengagement, and sense of their campus community and safety. Conditional process analyses (Hayes, 2018) were used to understand the pathways between forms of IPV, mental health, sense of community, and academic disengagement behaviors. The current analysis comprises 6,818 female-identified students.  Participants were 25.3 years of age on average (SD = 8.11). Twenty-seven percent were graduate or professional students, and 85% reported living off campus.  Forty-five percent of students identified as Hispanic/Latin@, and 42% identified as White.

Results: Each conditional process model found a significant indirect path between physical or psychological IPV and academic disengagement through extent of depression symptomology. Student sense of campus community was directly associated with fewer academic disengagement behaviors, regardless of their extent of physical violence experiences. However, the impact of psychological IPV on academic disengagement was significantly stronger for those with lower senses of community on campus.  Sense of safety on campus directly influenced extent of academic disengagement regardless of extent of physical or psychological IPV.

Conclusions and Implications: College students are engaged in a journey of professional and personal development. Supporting students in achieving their academic goals strengthens their economic and social capital which can contribute to decreased future risk of violence.  The findings of this study identified some of the pathways that connect experiences of IPV victimization with academic disengagement behaviors.  Universities can apply these findings through the provision of evidence based mental health services and campus advocacy services, and efforts to increase students’ sense of community.  Effective university responses could be an important facilitator of positive academic outcomes for female survivors of intimate partner violence, enhancing their economic power and potentially their long term safety from future experiences of violence.