Abstract: Economic Abuse and Depressive Symptoms: Financial Strain As a Missing Mediator (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

706P Economic Abuse and Depressive Symptoms: Financial Strain As a Missing Mediator

Sunday, January 19, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Hsiu-Fen Lin, MSW, PhD Candidate, Rutgers University, NJ
Amanda Stylianou, PhD, Associate Vice President, Quality & Program Development, Safe Horizon, New York, NY
Hongwei Hu, PhD, Associate Professor, Renmin University of China, Beijing, China
Judy Postmus, PhD, Professor & Associate Dean for Faculty Development & Strategic Initiatives, Rutgers University
Background: Women are at higher risk of intimate partner violence owing to healthy and economic inequalities. IPV is evidenced as a key factor for depression among women across different cultures (Beydoun, Beydoun, Kaufman, Lo, & Zonderman, 2012). Particularly, women who experience economic abuse display high level of depression in the cross-sectional studies (Gibbs, Dunkle, & Jewkes, 2018; Stylianou, 2018). However, the relationship between economic abuse and depressive symptoms vanishes in the longitudinal studt (Stylianou, 2016), which suggests other mediators can exist and need to be identified (Baron and Kenny,1986). One potential mediator is financial strain that women experience more than men (Tucker & Lowell, 2016), associated with gendered inequality (Thorne, 2010). Financial strain serves as a strong indicator of depression (Dijkstra-Kersten, Biesheuvel-Leliefeld, Wouden, Penninx, & Marwijk, 2015; Price, Choi, & Vinokur, 2002). As a chronic stress, financial strain has a 3 to 4 times stronger impact on depression than cumulative stressors-life trauma according to the cumulative adversity theory (Turner and Lloyd,1995). Little research considers financial strain as a mediator in the IPV studies; hence, this study examines if financial strain acts as a mediator between economic abuse and depression among female IPV survivors.

Methods: This study utilizes data collected during a longitudinal, randomized control study evaluating the impact of a financial literacy program with IPV survivors from seven states in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. This study only included women who completed the first interview (n=456). Variables of interest were measured by validated scales, including the Scale of Economic Abuse-12 (Postmus, Plummer, and Stylianou, 2016; α=0.89), the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D; Radloff, 1977; α=0.81), and the Financial Strain Scale (Aldana & Liljenquist, 1998; α=0.84). Sociodemographic characteristics included ethnicity, age, born in the US, having children under 18, and annual income over 10,000. Multiple regression models were performed to examine the mediator effect of financial strain.

Results: Three regression models indicated that financial strain mediated the relationship between economic abuse and depression among IPV female survivors. Following Barron and Kenny (1986), the understandardized regression coefficient of economic abuse on depression dropped from 0.198 to 0.023 and became insignificant when financial strain was included. The power of the meditational test was also maximized. As studies have not tested the significance of the mediated effect (Frazier, Tix, & Barron, 2004), the test result of this study was significant (19.82, p< .05), confirming financial strain as a significant mediator. Female IPV survivors who experience economic abuse have higher levels of depression due to the higher levels of financial strain, which in turn leads to higher levels of depression.

Implications: This study supports the evidence that financial strain is a prominent indicator of depression for those who experience economic abuse. The vicious cycle results in economic inequality among IPV female survivors. Practitioners and advocates should address all these components to break the cycle and develop interventions to decrease financial strain to reduce depression. Policy makers need to develop regulations to reduce economic inequality for IPV survivors.