Methods: This study is a secondary analysis of data from the 2011-2014 American College Health Association’s (ACHA) National College Health Assessment (NCHA), which includes self-report responses from a national sample of undergraduate students (N=86,276). Structural equation modeling was used to examine the relationship between a latent variable of IPV (comprised of physical, emotional, sexual, and stalking violence) and a range of self-perceived impediments to academic success. Impediments were operationalized from a series of questions in the NCHA that ask separately if each variable caused lower grades on exams, lower grades on courses, dropped courses, or disruption of a major work such as a thesis.
Results: Results of a CFA support the use of the latent IPV variable (RMSEA=.023, CFI=.997, TLI=.992). Our model was found to be a good fit for our data (RMSEA=.012, CFI=.994, TLI=.980). We found that undergraduate survivors of IPV were more likely to report the following impediments to their academic performance: physical assault (.75, p<.001), sexual assault (p=.59, p<.001), financial problems (.30, p<.001), depression (.35, p<.001), anxiety (.29, p<.001), disordered eating (.33, p<.001), sleep problems (.28, p<.001), alcohol use (.22, p<.001), drug use (.26, p<.001), injury (.22, , p<.001), sexually transmitting infections (.39, p<.001), chronic health problems (.26, p<.001), and pregnancy (.36, p<.001).
Conclusions and Implication: This study builds upon existing research by illuminating several mechanisms by which IPV affects academic performance for undergraduate students. Specifically, it appears that IPV has a ripple effect; that is, the negative effects it wields on physical, mental, behavioral, and economic health is perceived by students as directly affecting their academic performance. Study findings have important implications, especially for college administrators. There is a clear need to develop screening practices and interventions that recognize IPV as not only a direct impediment to academic success, but also as a pernicious precursor to other impediments such as depression and drug use.