Abstract: Prevalence and Associations of Intimate Partner Violence Among Young Women Formerly in Foster Care Living in Arizona (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Prevalence and Associations of Intimate Partner Violence Among Young Women Formerly in Foster Care Living in Arizona

Friday, January 14, 2022
Monument, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Ijeoma Nwabuzor Ogbonnaya, PhD, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, AZ
Ann Turnlund-Carver, MSW, Research Specialist, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Alexandra Almeida, PhD, Doctoral Candidate, San Diego State University, CA
Malorie Ward, Doctoral Student, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Kristin Ferguson, PhD, Professor, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Kaitlin Dick, MSW Student, Arizona State University, AZ
Background/Purpose: Young women with a history of foster care are at heightened risk of intimate partner violence (IPV). However, little attention has been given to IPV among foster youth. For instance, only four studies have focused on direct IPV victimization among former foster youth, with two of these studies being conducted over 15 years ago. The current study estimates the prevalence and correlates of IPV among young women formerly in foster care living in Arizona. Two questions guided our study: 1) What is the prevalence of IPV among young women formerly in foster care? 2) What characteristics of foster care (placement type, stability, age at exit) are associated with IPV?

Methods: We used a cross-sectional design, collecting data over 4 months from an online survey. Participants had to reside in Arizona, identify as woman, age 18-24, and foster care alumna. After removing ineligible participants and low-quality data (e.g., outliers based on Mahalanobis distance score), our sample included 201 participants. Survey questions asked about foster care history, past-year IPV (measured using the Abuse Assessment Screen), mental health, and demographics. We calculated IPV prevalence and related risk factors and prevalence ratios with 95% confidence intervals.

Results: On average, participants were aged 21.5 (SD= 1.7). Most (95.2%) had no children; 6.0% were pregnant. Slightly over three-fifths (66.0%) were white and currently in a relationship (64.2%). Most had temporary (50.0%) or full-time (40.1%) employment. Ten percent were taking medication for anxiety or depression.

Length of time in foster care ranged from 1-16 years (M= 6; SD= 4.1). Participants experienced, on average, 2 (SD= 0.9) foster care placements, with most (61.7%) being kinship placements. Approximately two-fifths (41.3%) of participants turned age 18 while in foster care.

Nearly one-quarter (24.2%, 95% CI= [0.18, 0.31]) of participants experienced past-year sexual IPV, and 16.8% (95% CI= [0.1, 0.2]) physical IPV. Among participants reporting IPV, approximately one-third (29.2%) and two-fifths (40.0%), experienced sexual and physical IPV, respectively, 3-5 times in the past year. Further, 72.6% (95% CI= [0.60-0.83]) remained in the abusive relationship. Over one-third (36.4%, 95% CI= [0.11-0.69]) of pregnant participants reported experiencing physical IPV during their pregnancy.

Kinship care (aOR=0.2, 95% CI= [0.1-0.6]) and more years in foster care (aOR=0.8, 95% CI= [0.7-0.10]) were significantly associated with decreased likelihood of past-year physical and/or sexual IPV.

Conclusions/Implications: The rate of former foster youth remaining in abusive relationships (73%) is nearly 6 times higher than among youth in the general population (13%). Further, a pattern of IPV (e.g., 40.0% reporting many past-year physical IPV incidents) and IPV during pregnancy could indicate higher risk. Thus, IPV programs, research, and policies targeting foster care alumnae are sorely needed. Supporting prior research, we found kinship care may benefit physical health. Although fewer, some research suggests longer time in foster care is a protective factor. Additional research is needed to corroborate our finding that indicate length of time in foster care protects against IPV. Longer time in foster care may protect against IPV if combined with supports needed to engage in healthy relationships.