Abstract: Child Care and Behavioral Outcomes for Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Child Care and Behavioral Outcomes for Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence

Sunday, January 16, 2022
Liberty Ballroom K, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Juliann Nicholson, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, Boston University, Boston, MA
Yoonsook Ha, PhD, MSSW, Associate Professor, Boston University, Boston, MA
Background and Purpose: Research shows links between children’s early exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) and adverse child outcomes, including anxiety, depression and behavioral problems. Although potential benefits of quality child care (e.g., reduced violence exposure, sensitive caregiving and structured routines) closely align with key protective factors for young children exposed to IPV, there is a striking lack of research exploring the role of child care in the IPV context. We examine associations between children’s early IPV exposure and their behavioral outcomes and test whether child care moderates those relationships.

Methods: We use four waves of data from the national Fragile Families and Child Well Being Study. The sample comprises 3,362 mother-child dyads. We measure IPV in multiple ways, including the experiences of any, frequent, and prolonged IPV, and indicators for physical violence and coercive control, from birth to age 3. Child care arrangement is measured at age 3 as a categorical variable representing parental, informal home-based, formal home-based, and center-based care. Children’s internalizing behavioral problems (IBP) and externalizing behavioral problems (EBP) are measured at age 5, respectively, using the Anxious/Depressed and Withdrawn subscales and the Aggressive and Destructive subscales of the Child Behavior Checklist. Multivariate linear regression models are used to assess the relationships between various measures of IPV and behavioral outcomes, adjusting for covariates. To examine moderation effects of child care on the associations between IPV and behavioral outcomes, we include interaction terms between child care arrangements and IPV in each model. We use inverse probability of treatment weighting (IPTW) to address potential selection bias.

Results: After adjusting for covariates, frequent, physical, coercive, and any IPV at age 3 were associated with children’s EBP at age 5. Only prolonged IPV was significantly associated with IBP. Among children who were primarily in their parents’ care, however, all IPV measures were significantly, positively associated with EBP and IBP. Moderation models showed that, for children exposed to various dimensions of IPV, use of non-parental child care significantly buffered, and in some cases reversed, the positive associations between IPV exposure and both IBP and EBP. Informal and formal home-based care in particular were likely to reduce the negative influences of various dimensions of IPV on children’s IBP and EBP. Center-based care was additionally likely to reduce the negative influences of persistent and frequent IPV on children’s IBP.

Conclusions and Implications: Findings suggest that child care participation can buffer the negative effects of IPV exposure on behavioral outcomes for young children. These findings offer important implications for child care subsidy policy and programming efforts and for social workers who are working with survivor parents and their children. In identifying an existing community resource that can mitigate the negative effects of IPV on children’s development, the current study highlights a promising area for intervention.