The Relationship among Housing Instability, Race/Ethnicity, Depressive Symptoms, and Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence among Mothers

Author: ORCID icon
Wilson, Patty, Nursing - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Laughon, Kathryn, School of Nursing, University of Virginia

Background: Mothers who experience ongoing intimate partner violence (IPV) with limited finances, unemployment, and housing instability (HI) may find themselves trapped in situations where they stay in abusive relationships or return to their abuser, increasing their exposure to IPV. The racial disparities in rates of IPV, depressive symptoms, and HI between Black women and White women is alarming. Little is known of the influence that race/ethnicity has on the relationship between HI, depressive symptoms, and exposure to IPV.

Objective: Explore the relationship among housing instability, race/ethnicity, depressive symptoms and exposure to IPV among mothers.

Design and Methods: An exploratory sequential mixed methods design was used. The qualitative portion explored the narratives of Black mothers currently residing at an emergency IPV shelter to discover their experiences in seeking housing after leaving abusive relationships, with a focus on housing instability and depressive symptoms. Findings from the qualitative study helped identify key variables to analyze in the quantitative portion. A retrospective study design was employed for the quantitative portion of the mixed methods study using existing data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (FFCWB). Logistic regression was used to examine the relationships of interest.

Sample: Life history narratives were collected from five Black mothers currently living at an emergency IPV shelter in Baltimore City. The analytic sample for the quantitative study included data in which mothers from the FFCWB study reported their housing status (housing stability or housing instability) at year five.

Results: Four major themes emerged from the qualitative portion: (1) unstable/insecure housing over time, (2) limited support, (3) survival, and (4) depressive symptoms. Quantitative findings revealed the following: Mothers more likely to report HI were between the ages of 20-24 (36%), Black (53.2%), had less than a high school education (48.6%), and earned less than ten thousand dollars a year (69%). Race/ethnicity was not found to influence the association between HI and depressive symptoms or HI and chronic IPV.

Conclusions: Mothers with HI were most likely employed yet did not earn enough to prevent HI. Generations of multiple overlapping situational and structural inequities have placed Black women at greater risk for HI and chronic IPV. Clinicians should move beyond traditional assessments and screening to elicit information that will help determine increased risk for HI. Early screening and referrals for mental health services, educational programs, job training, and housing assistance are vital to reducing chronic exposure to IPV.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Intimate partner violence (IPV), Housing Instability, Depression, Black Women, Racial Disparities
Sponsoring Agency:
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Grant Numbers 2T06SM060559-04 and 5T06SM060559-05
All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
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