Financial strain is one hardship faced by female survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) that is often overlooked. Women have higher levels of financial hardship than men and prolonged exposure to economic hardship (Tucker & Lowell, 2016). Financial strain is negatively related to financial well-being (Sabri & Zakaria, 2015), and is identified as a critical factor for survivors to leave an abusive relationship (Kim & Gray, 2008). Research has shown IPV experiences jeopardize women’s economic security differently (Adams, Tolman, Bybee, Sullivan, & Kennedy, 2013; Resko, 2010); however, most IPR research focuses on physical and psychological abuse. Recent attention has been given to economic abuse as an invisible form of IPV (Postmus, Hoge, Breckenridge, Sharp-Jeffs, & Chung, 2018). Unfortunately, IPV studies have not addressed economic abuse and the impact on financial strain. This paper examines the relationships between multiple forms of abuse and financial strain, specifically economic abuse.
Methods: This study utilized data collected during a longitudinal, randomized control study evaluating the impact of a financial literacy program with IPV survivors over 14 months. The sample size was 198 women who completed all four interviews. Financial strain was measured by the Financial Strain Scale (Aldana & Liljenquist, 1998) and has been validated among IPV survivors (Hetling, Stylianou, & Postmus, 2014). Regression models were performed to examine the relationship between different types of abuse on financial strain. Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition was used to partition the mean differences of financial strain over time, and to determine the contributions from different forms of abuse. In social science research, the Oaxaca-Blinder decomposition analysis is less frequently used, but their findings provide insights that differentiate the impacts of abuses on financial strain in order to tailor IPV services.
Results: The results of regression models indicated that physical and economic abuse were significantly and positively associated with the magnitude of financial strain. Survivors who were older displayed higher levels of financial strain. The results of the decomposition analysis showed that the difference on financial strain over time was well explained by abuses and other socioeconomic variables (74%). The decrease of financial strain over time was mainly attributed to the decrease of economic and physical abuse. Particularly, the decrease of economic abuse contributed to over half (58%) of the decrease of financial strain over time.
Implications: The results showed that physical abuse, and even more significantly economic abuse, affected financial strain more than other forms of IPV. As economic abuse is commonly experienced among IPV survivors (Stylianou, 2018), its impact on financial well-being needs more attention. Advocates need to assess survivors’ risk of economic abuse, evaluate financial strain, and utilize safety planning skills to build economic security and independence. In addition, policy makers need to address issues concerning economic security among female IPV survivors.