Methods: The authors utilized data from Wave 5 of the Fragile Families core study [n=507 children; 56% male and 44% female; mean age=8.71 years (SE=0.17); 34% White, 19.5% Latino/a, 31% Black, and 15.4% Multiracial]. Academic achievement was measured using passage comprehension and applied math problems from the Woodcock-Johnson IV Test of Academic Achievement. Children’s exposure to IPV was measured dichotomously (0=not exposed, 1=exposed) if mothers responded affirmatively to any of the items on the physical violence and psychological violence sub scales of The Revised Conflict Tactics Scale. Complex samples analyses were used in SPSS v. 28 in order to accommodate the weighted sample design. Cross-tabulations and odds ratios were computed for binary variables, and bivariate correlations were analyzed among continuous variables. A complex samples general linear model was used to test the hypotheses in academic outcomes, controlling for maternal material hardship, child’s age, and race.
Results: Almost a third (32.6%) of the sample was exposed to IPV. The overall model for reading comprehension explained 24% of the variance. IPV was significantly negatively related to lower reading comprehension (b= -8.57, SE=2.31, p=.001, CI -13.40-3.74), indicating that children exposed to IPV score 8.5 points lower on standardized tests for reading comprehension. Being female predicted almost an eight-point increase in reading comprehension (b=7.55, SE=1.99, p=.001). There were no differences in reading comprehension based on sociodemographic covariates. IPV was not significantly related to applied math scores; nor were the sociodemographic characteristics.
Conclusions and Implications: This study offers the first nationally-representative, generalizable assessment of the impact of children’s IPV exposure at a national level. These findings demonstrate that children’s exposure to IPV significantly reduced their reading comprehension scores, and observed gender differences suggest a need to test for gender interaction effects. Additional research is also needed to explore the relationship and impact of applied math skills. One method might be by triangulating math assessments. Overall, the findings highlight the need for practitioners to assess the effect of IPV exposure on children’s academic achievement. The 2022 Reauthorization of VAWA includes the need to train educational staff in trauma-informed pedagogies and how to better to identify and refer children exposed to IPV, for support services. Our findings support the importance of continuing funding for these provisions and the need for additional screening for children exposed to IPV.