Abstract: Intimate Partner Violence Exposure and Adolescent Mental Health Outcomes: The Mediating Role of Housing Insecurity (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Intimate Partner Violence Exposure and Adolescent Mental Health Outcomes: The Mediating Role of Housing Insecurity

Sunday, January 16, 2022
Liberty Ballroom K, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Katherine Marçal, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV
Background and Purpose: Intimate partner violence perpetrated against mothers poses a major threat to child mental health. A number of mechanisms have been identified explaining the link from intimate partner violence (IPV) to child emotional and behavioral problems, but little research has examined the role of housing insecurity. IPV is a leading cause of housing insecurity and homelessness among women in the United States, and lack of stable housing has numerous implications for child mental health. Few policies exist to protect stable housing for survivors, who may face eviction for noise or damages caused by abusers, frequent calls to emergency services, or other “nuisance” complaints that can lead landlords to terminate lease agreements. Housing protections may offer a leverage point for intervening in the pathway from mothers’ experiences of IPV to adverse child outcomes. The present study investigates whether housing insecurity mediates the link from mothers’ experiences of intimate partner violence with children’s long-term mental health outcomes.

Method: Data came from the Years 5, 9 and 15 interviews of the Fragile Families and Child Well-being Study; the analytic sample was limited to mothers with at least partial custody of children throughout the study period (N = 2,425). Missing data in the present study were handled using multiple imputation by chained equations with predictive mean matching (MICE). Structural equation modeling with latent variables investigated research questions. Confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) identified observed indicators for latent constructs, and a path analysis tested direct and indirect pathways from IPV exposure to adolescent depression and anxiety.

Results: Intimate partner violence was directly associated with increased housing insecurity (β = 0.18, p < 0.001), and housing insecurity was directly associated with both adolescent depression (β = 0.11, p < 0.05) and anxiety (β = 0.09, p < 0.05; Table 2). Intimate partner violence did not directly relate with either adolescent outcome, but was indirectly associated with adolescent depression via housing insecurity (β = 0.02, p < 0.05).

Conclusions and Implications: Findings point to the long-term consequences of exposure to intimate partner violence in childhood, highlighting pathways to mental disorder in adolescence. Although IPV exposure is not directly associated with either adolescent outcome, it is indirectly associated with depression via housing insecurity. Failure to support stable housing among mothers who experience IPV has long-term consequences for their children’s mental health. Limitations of the present study include the purely urban sample, dependent variables that do not cover the full range of emotional and behavioral problems that may occur in the transition to adulthood, and self-reported indicators with potential for social desirability bias. The present study emphasizes the need for policies that protect survivors of IPV from eviction and homelessness, empower them to leave abusers without fear of losing their housing, and promote healthy child development in the wake of family violence.