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Journal Title: Work, Employment and Society
Article Number: 1035289 1035289WES
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1 No abbreviations in abstract, please check all have been expanded correctly
2 Please provide complete reference details for ‘Smith et al., 2018’, or delete the citation.
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Work, Employment and Society
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
The Employment Trajectories
of Survivors of Intimate
University of Kentucky, USA
The Ohio State University, USA
University of Kentucky, USA
Abstract [AQ: 1]
Intimate partner violence in the United States is significantly associated with employment
instability. Using a latent growth curve model, the current study investigates the impact of
intimate partner violence on mothers’ (N=4,897) employment outcomes trajectories in the
Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study which include four waves of data collection starting
when a child was born and ending about 8 years later. Outcomes included annual weeks worked
and employment status (employed vs. unemployed). There was a significant effect of intimate
partner violence on weeks worked and employment status at the second wave of data collection,
indicating that mothers were most likely to experience employment instability when they had
a three-year-old child. Results also showed that intimate partner violence survivors were still
experiencing unemployment six years after abuse occurred. Workplaces and policymakers should
protect mothers with young children experiencing intimate partner violence by extending time
off from work and connection to community resources.
employment, intimate partner violence, working, working mothers
Kathryn Showalter, College of Social Work, University of Kentucky, 619 Patterson Office Tower,
Lexington, KY 40508, USA.
0010.1177/09500170211035289Work, employment and societyShowalter et al.
are in the abstract
2 Work, Employment and Society 00(0)
Nationally representative estimates suggest that intimate partner violence (IPV) is a
serious concern for a large proportion of Americans. In the United States, close to 6%
of adult women experience IPV annually and between 25%-35% of women experience
some form of IPV in their lifetime (Black et al., 2010; Smith et al., 2018) .[AQ: 2].
Additionally, over one-fourth (28%) of women who experience any form of IPV indi-
cate they have missed at least one day of work or school because of the abuse (Black
et al., 2010). Women who experience IPV or physical, emotional, mental, and/or finan-
cial abuse by a current or previous romantic partner (hereafter referred to as survivors)
face several employment challenges. Employment challenges, or employment instabil-
ity, as labeled in related literature (Shepard and Pence, 1988; Showalter, 2016) [AQ: 3]
[AQ: 4]encompass the following: absenteeism, being late for work, leaving early from
work, and job loss. In 2006, emotional and physical consequences of IPV led 59.4% of
participants to miss work and 48.3% to lose or quit a job (Swanberg et al., 2006). What
is more is that IPV likely has a longer-term impact on employment, with survivors
reporting employment instability nearly 6 years after leaving an abusive relationship
(Crowne et al., 2011)[AQ: 5]. Considering the high frequency of survivors’ employ-
ment instability and the potential lasting effect of IPV on employment, longitudinally
examining survivors’ annual weeks worked and employment status (i.e., employed vs.
unemployment) over the span of several years is important for creating interventions for
improved employment outcomes for IPV survivors.
Survivors’ employment instability
Abusive partners often systematically sabotage survivors’ employment. Abuser work-
place disruptions or direct (e.g. refusing to assist with child care) and indirect (e.g. emo-
tional abuse before work) tactics that control survivors’ work are closely linked to
employment instability (Beck et al., 2014; Borchers et al., 2016; Logan et al., 2007;
Stylianou, 2018; Swanberg et al., 2006; Tolman and Rosen, 2001) [AQ: 6] [AQ: 7].
Tolman and Rosen (2001) find nearly half of survivors in a sample of Michigan female
welfare recipients had experienced workplace disruptions over a 12-month period. This
frequency is likely even higher today as texting, social media posting, tweeting, direct
messaging, and online tracking create new ways for abusive partners to disrupt survi-
vors’ work. The effect of workplace disruptions is severe especially for mothers in need
of stable employment to provide for their families.
Motherhood and employment instability
Balancing motherhood and employment are especially challenging for IPV survivors.
Motherhood provides abusive partners with leverage to guilt survivors into prioritizing
children over their careers (Showalter et al., 2018) [AQ: 8]. In interviews with women
enrolled in an employment program, nearly half of women whose abusive partners told
them “good mothers did not work” did not complete the program (Brush, 2000) [AQ: 9].
Given that women with annual household incomes below $25,000 are more likely to
The change of
date for Shepard
and Pence is
Showalter, K. (2016).
domestic violence: A
review of the
and violent behavior,
This is correct
Beck, J. G., Clapp, J. D., Jacobs-
Lentz, J., McNiff, J., Avery, M., &
Olsen, S. A. (2014). The association of
mental health conditions with
employment, interpersonal, and
subjective functioning after intimate
partner violence. Violence Against
Women, 20(11), 1321-1337.
Logan, T. K., Shannon, L.,
Cole, J., & Swanberg, J.
(2007). Partner stalking
and implications for
Journal of Interpersonal
Violence, 22(3), 268-291.
Showalter, K., Maguire-Jack, K., Yang, M. Y.,
& Purtell, K. M. (2019). Work outcomes for
mothers experiencing intimate partner
violence: The buffering effect of child care
subsidy. Journal of Family Violence, 34(4),
Brush, L. D. (2000).
stress, and welfare-to-
Against Women, 6(10),
Showalter et al. 3
experience IPV (Black et al., 2010)[AQ: 10], many mothers must maintain employment
to afford the cost of housing, utilities, and basic necessities for themselves and their fami-
lies. In Borchers et al’s. (2016) qualitative study of the entanglement of economic hard-
ship, employment, and IPV, one survivor explains, “I didn’t have anywhere to go (live). . .
My ex offered for me to stay where he was staying. . .I didn’t want to have to take care of
four kids by myself (p. 474).” The current study focuses on two forms of employment
instability in a sample of mothers: missing weeks of work and unemployment.
Missing weeks of work
Absence from employment for weeks or months is not uncommon for IPV survivors. In
a three-year study of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) recipients eligi-
ble for welfare-to-work activities in California, participants worked a significantly
lower mean number of weeks when they had a need for IPV services (Meisel et al.,
2003). While this is the only known study that has focused on survivors’ weeks of work,
several additional studies have found that women who experience IPV work fewer
months than women who do not experience IPV (see Adams et al., 2012; Crowne et al.,
2011; Riger et al., 2004; Staggs and Riger, 2005; Staggs et al., 2007). For instance,
survivors in the Adams et al. (2012) study who experienced IPV recently (i.e. in the past
two years) work 3.06 fewer months than women who did not experience IPV and, sur-
vivors whose IPV ended within the last three years work 2.9 fewer months than women
who did not experience IPV. If findings from Adams et al. (2012) are converted to
weeks, one would expect experiences of IPV in the past two to three years to cost sur-
vivors about 12 weeks of work annually. Note that Meisel et al.’s (2003) study as well
as Adams et al.’s (2012) [AQ: 11]study both have samples of low-income mothers
indicating that the consequences of IPV on hours worked may be especially detrimental
Unlike other forms of employment instability, findings of the effect of IPV on unemploy-
ment are inconsistent. Variation between study findings may be due to the long-term
impact of IPV on employment (Lindhorst et al., 2007), differences in IPV measurement,
and/or confounding variables related to employment outcomes. Stylianou (2018) recently
found that the likelihood of being employed decreased if participants had experienced
economic, psychological, or physical abuse but not sexual abuse. In the same study,
motherhood was not related to any violence outcome (Stylianou, 2018). Kimerling et al.
(2009) also report differences in IPV type, finding psychological IPV was a significant
predictor of unemployment but physical IPV was not. Still, other researchers have found
no effect of IPV on employment status in cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses (see
Adams et al., 2012; Browne et al., 1999; Bryne et al., 1999; Rosen, 2001)[AQ: 12].
Further advanced statistical examination is needed to understand these relationships.
Employers should be equally invested in understanding survivors’ employment instabil-
ity as IPV comes at a high monetary price.
4 Work, Employment and Society 00(0)
The cognitive theory of stress and coping (Folkman and Lazarus, 1984) poses that when
people sense control over stressful situations they are more likely to cope with stressors.
If applied to IPV survivors’ employment instability, the lack of control survivors have
over their own lives may prevent them from coping with IPV and in turn miss weeks of
work or suffer from unemployment. However theorists go onto assert that the pathway
between control and stressors could be influenced by multiple factors (e.g. environment,
individual persistence, locus of control, emotional regulation ) and thus not everyone
who feels control will avoid stressors (Folkman, 1984). In this, survivors may believe
that they have enough control over their abusive relationships to maintain employment
but because of factors outside of their control (e.g. social support, cognitive awareness of
IPV, personal and religious beliefs, and children) they may still continue to experience
employment instability for prolonged periods (Rizo et al., 2017).
The current study
Conceptually, the current study examines the effect of IPV on survivors’ employment
outcomes over time, including annual weeks worked and employment status. More spe-
cifically, the model focuses on the lagged effect of IPV from when the mothers’ child was
born (Time 1), on the employment outcomes of mothers at Time 2 (two years later), Time
3 (four years later), and Time 4 (eight years later). Only one prior study has examined
these outcomes over time but utilized path analysis (Adams et al., 2012) and therefore did
not remove measurement error from latent variables (Bowen and Guo, 2011)[AQ: 13].
Other studies (e.g. Adams et al., 2012; Browne et al., 1999; Bryne et al., 1999; Tolman and
Wang, 2005) have found that employment instability outcomes are directly related to IPV
over time but relationships have not been confirmed using a growth curve model. Thus,
by using a growth curve model, the current study adds to existing findings by exploring
the ways in which individual employment outcomes change over time for mothers that
experienced IPV compared with those mothers who did not. Further, through this model
we are able to identify the point in survivors’ lives in which IPV has the greatest effect on
their employment outcomes and therefore the time period that assistance from employers,
human resources, and EAPs may be most beneficial.
The current study included a secondary analysis of longitudinal data from mothers who
participated in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study (FFCW). The FFCW is a
study designed to explore parental capabilities, relationship characteristics, and child
well-being among families who are disproportionately experiencing economic hardships
while oversampling for unmarried mothers (McLanahan, 2009). Public data of individ-
ual-level characteristics, relationship experiences, and health and well-being of children
and parents are available for six time periods of data (covering the time period from birth
to age nine of the focal child; Vartanian, 2011).
Showalter et al. 5
Five FFCW collection years were used in the study to explore mothers’ employment
trajectories from Time 1 (collected 1999-2001) to Time 4 (collected 2007-2010). When
the project began, data was not available for Time 5 (collected when the child was fifteen-
years-old). Data collected at FFCW baseline are used in the current study because the
researchers did not want to exclude mothers who failed to participate at Time 1 but did
participate in subsequent waves.
Researchers of the FFCW used a multi-staged, stratified random sampling strategy.
Sampling was not geographic but rather informed by policy environments and labor
market conditions of 77 US cities with a population of at least 200,000 persons in 1998
(Reichman et al., 2001). Researchers believed it was important to build knowledge on
unwed parents and economic disadvantage because of the economy’s impact on maternal
employment and mothers’ ability to provide for their families (Osborne and Knab, 2007).
Of the 75 hospitals selected to be in the study, 4,898 families or births were selected, of
which 4,897 are included in this study based on full information maximum likelihood
(FIML) qualifications that participants have data for at least one measured variable
(Vartanian, 2011). The sample size was the same (i.e. N=4,897) for both employment
outcomes analyzed. Mothers did not have to be experiencing IPV to be included in the
Employment instability. The outcome variable for the study is employment instability and
was measured using two items: annual weeks worked and employment status (whether
the participant was working at all). Outcome data was analyzed at Time 1- Time 4 with
a focus on Time 4 employment outcomes.
Weeks worked was measured at each Time by determining the self-reported number
of weeks participants worked in the past 12-months and range from 0 to 52 at each Time.
If participants reported that they had never worked for two consecutive weeks, had not
worked since their child’s birth, or did not work the last 12 months, they skipped the
weeks worked question and were coded as having worked zero weeks.
Employment status was measured using a categorical variable as observed in related
literature (Douge et al., 2014; Kimerling et al., 2009; Shepard and Pence, 1988)
[AQ: 14]. The employment status item selected asked participants, “Last week, did you
do any regular work for pay? Include any work you might have done in your own busi-
ness (or military service) where you got a regular paycheck.” The employment status
variable was dichotomously coded in which participants were determined to be employed
(1) and unemployed (0) at each time of data collection.
Intimate partner violence. Experiences of IPV among mothers served as the key inde-
pendent variable in the study. In the FFCW study, mothers were asked about their experi-
ences of IPV with the father of the focal child or their current partner (if not the father).
IPV items were based on seven items adapted from the Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS;
6 Work, Employment and Society 00(0)
Straus, 1979) and questions developed by experts in the IPV field (Lloyd, 1997). The
CTS (Straus, 1979) is a widely accepted IPV measurement tool and has demonstrated a
stable factor structure, moderate reliability and concurrent validity, and excellent con-
struct validity (Lloyd and Taluc, 1999). Additionally, Lloyd’s (1997) questions have
shown reliability in repeated studies of IPV.
When answering IPV items, participants were asked to consider how their partner
behaved towards them. For every item, participants reported how often their partner
behaved in each way by responding “often,” “sometimes,” or “never.” In the selected
sample, Chronbach’s alpha at every time was below the acceptable value for IPV meas-
urement with the father of the child and IPV measurement with a current partner (T1:
0.564, 0.639; T2: 0.565, 0.513; T3: 0.599, 0.502; T4:0.569; 0.541). Although interitem
reliability was relatively low, the current Chronbach’s alphas are consistent with previ-
ous IPV studies using FFCW data (Showalter et al., 2017) [AQ: 15]and findings that
family violence behaviors do not typically overlap (Straus et al., 1990). [AQ: 16]
Each IPV experience was recoded with the values of two for responses of often, one
for responses of sometimes, and zero for responses of never. Remaining responses of
“don’t know” and “refuse” were coded as missing. Using the recoded values, a total
score of each item was calculated for participants by summing the seven-items to find an
IPV frequency value. The scoring process of IPV items was the same for survivors in a
relationship with the father of the focal child and in a relationship with a current partner.
If participants responded that they were not currently romantic with the father or a cur-
rent partner and did not live with the partner most of the time they were asked to skip
both sets of IPV questions and were coded as having zero experiences of IPV.
Demographics. Several variables have been selected as covariates due to their known
association with IPV and employment instability (Hart and Klein, 2013; Swanberg et al.,
2006). Age, race, ethnicity, education level, income, household size, relationship status,
receipt of government assistance and mental health problems served as control variables.
The control variables of income, household size, and relationship status were time-vary-
ing and age, race, ethnicity, education level, receipt of government assistance and mental
health problems were time invariant. Age, income, and household size were treated as
continuous variables. Race, ethnicity, education level and relationship status were treated
as categorical variables and condensed into categories based on distributions. Of note,
relationship status followed a modified version of the skip pattern to account for changes
in relationship status during the course of the study and living arrangements with abusive
partners. Mothers were considered to be in a relationship if they were married, romanti-
cally involved, or living together most of the time with the father of their child or their
current partner. Mental health problems and receipt of government assistance were
treated as a dichotomous variables with an option for the variable being applicable to the
participant (e.g. experienced mental health problems) and an option for the variable not
being applicable to the participant (e.g. did not experience mental health problems).
Mental health problems included generalized anxiety disorder or depression using the
Composite International Diagnostic Interview—Short Form (CIDI-SF; Kessler et al.,
1998) that is based on DSM-III-R criteria and has shown excellent reliability and validity
in studies of the population (Wittchen et al., 1995).
Showalter, K., Maguire-
Jack, K., & Barnhart, S.
(2017). Investigating the
effects of neighborhood
processes in intimate
partner violence. Journal
Maltreatment & Trauma,
Showalter et al. 7
The study uses a latent growth curve (LGC) model that estimated developmental patterns
of change over time (Curran et al., 2010). This analytical approach allowed for the exam-
ination of changes in employment outcomes between mothers as well as changes in
employment outcomes for each individual mother over time. Each outcome (i.e., weeks
worked, employed) was analyzed separately. Although the outcomes differed in the mod-
els, each model tested the same paths on the relationship between IPV and employment
(See Path Diagram in Figure 1).
Model fit was estimated using the Root Mean Square Error of Approximation
(RMSEA), the comparative fit index (CFI) and the Tucker–Lewis Index (TLI) for all
models. Guided by previous research, RMSEA values less than 0.05, CFI values larger
than 0.9, and TLI values larger than 0.95 were considered good model fit (Bollen, 1989;
Hu and Bentler, 1999). However, experts have found that fit indices are not equally
dependable and so models were considered to have good fit when one fit indices was
inconsistent with cut-off values (Yu, 2002).
In terms of missingness, all variables at Time 1- Time 3 met model requirements for
using full information maximum likelihood (FIML) with missing data. Although in Time
4, all outcome variables exceeded missing data assumptions due to attrition of partici-
pants over time, they do so incrementally and so it was believed, based on the efficiency
Figure 1. Path diagram of survivors’ employment instability.
8 Work, Employment and Society 00(0)
and accuracy of FIML to alternative missing data approaches, that it was appropriate to
proceed (Enders and Bandalos, 2001). Descriptive statistics were conducted using SPSS
Software version 24 (IBM Corp., 2016) and LGC [AQ: 17] models were estimated
using Mplus 8 (Muthén and Muthén, 2018).
Descriptive statistics of the study variables can be found in Table 1. On average, mothers
in the sample were 25 (SD=12.15) years old and had at least a high school education
(65.4%) when baseline data was collected. Approximately half (47.6%) of the sample
identified as being Black and a majority of participants were Non-Hispanic (68.7%).
Most mothers reported being in a relationship at Time 1 (78.7%), Time 2 (76.0%), Time
3 (74.8%), and Time 4 (66.4%). The average participant reported receiving government
assistance during at least one of the four time points (62.0%) and was considered to be
experiencing anxiety or depression during at least one wave (69.5%). The average
income of survivors gradually increased over the four time points starting with $38,340.00
(SD=272.54) annually at Time 1 and ending with $47,980.00 (SD=382.28) at Time 4.
Participants had an average of about four people living in their household at Time 1
(M=3.50, SD=1.65), Time 2 (M=3.48, SD=1.62), and Time 3 (3.54, SD=1.62) and three
people living in their household at Time 4 (M=2.77, SD=1.56).
On a scale from 0-14 with 14 indicating IPV happens very often, mothers reported an
average IPV frequency score of 0.58 (SD=1.20) at Time 1, 0.52 (SD=1.12) at Time 2,
0.45 (SD=1.04) at Time 3, and 0.41 (SD=1.01) at Time 4, indicating seldom experiences
of IPV at each time period. Approximately 25% of the total sample (N=1,234) did not
experience IPV at any time period. In every time period, IPV is positively skewed which
is consistent with IPV experiences in the general population (Dutton and Kerry, 1998)
[AQ: 18]. Of note, experiencing IPV at each time point was significantly correlated with
having experienced IPV at the previous time point for both outcomes.
In the sample, mothers who were working on average, appear to be working more
than part-time most of the year at every time period of data. At each time period of data,
approximately half of the sample was currently employed (i.e. 52.9-62.1%). Mothers at
each Time appear to be working at least half of the year with a Time 1 average of 24.6
(SD=8.24) weeks, Time 2 29.3 (SD=8.47) weeks, Time 3 31.2 (SD=8.52) weeks, and
Time 4 32.4 (SD=8.49) weeks.
Latent growth curve models
The two models showed that both employment status and weeks worked significantly
increased in the sample over time, while accounting for covariates, such as age, race/
ethnicity, education level, mental health problems, and government assistance. Table 2
presents the standardized coefficients for covariates in both models. In the weeks worked
model, age was associated with a lower initial number of weeks worked (β=-0.089,
p=0.000) while identifying as Black (β=0.203, p=0.000), Hispanic (β=0.075, p=0.000),
defined in the
appear in the
Dutton, D. G., & Kerry, G.
(1998). Modus operandi and
personality disorder in
incarcerated spousal killers.
International Journal of Law
and Psychiatry, 22(3 -4), 287
Showalter et al. 9
Table 1. FFCW participants descriptive statistics (N=4,897).
Mean (SD) or % Range
Age 25 (3.49) 15-43
Time 1 3.50 (1.65) 0-15
Time 2 3.48 (1.62) 0-13
Time 3 3.54 (1.62) 0-13
Time 4 2.77 (1.56) 0-14
Time 1 78.7
Time 2 76.0
Time 3 74.8
Time 4 66.4
Time 1 $38,340 (272.54) $0-$500,000
Time 2 $41,040 (342.75) $0-1,000,000
Time 3 $41,200 (320.28) $0-800,000
Time 4 $47,980 (382.28) $0-$900,000
Race and ethnicity
Hispanic and other races 31.3
Less than high school 34.6
High school 30.3
More than high school 35.1
Mental health problem 69.5
Government assistance 62.0
Intimate partner violence
Time 1 0.58 (1.20) 0-14
Time 2 0.52 (1.12) 0-14
Time 3 0.45 (1.04) 0-13
Time 4 0.41 (1.01) 0-14
Annual weeks worked
Time 1 24.57 (8.24) 0-52
Time 2 29.93 (8.47) 0-52
Time 3 31.17 (8.52) 0-52
Time 4 32.36 (8.49) 0-52
Time 1 52.9
Time 2 56.1
Time 3 59.0
Time 4 62.1
10 Work, Employment and Society 00(0)
having a high school education (β=0.227, p<0.000) or more than a high school educa-
tion (β=0.287, p=0.000) were associated with a higher initial number of weeks worked.
Receiving government assistance (β=-1.167, p=0.000) and reporting a mental health
problem (β=-0.088, p=0.000) were both related to a decrease in the number of weeks
mothers worked over time. In the employment status model, increase in age was nega-
tively related to employment (β=-0.141, p=0.000) at the initial time point, while identify-
ing as Black (β=0.456, p=0.000), Hispanic (β=0.387, p=0.000), having a high school
education (β=0.458, p=0.000) or more than a high school education (β=0.640, p=0.000)
were positively related to the initial employment status. Receiving government assis-
tance (β=-0.265, p=0.000) and reporting a mental health problem (β=-0.154, p=0.001)
were both related to a decrease in employment over time.
Annual weeks worked. Overall model fit of the conditional model was acceptable, despite
a low TLI value (RMSEA=0.03, 90% CI:[0.027, 0.033]; CFI=0.932; TLI=0.902). At
Time 2, experiences of IPV were related to significant fewer weeks worked (β=-0.065,
p=0.000), but there was no lagged effect. A smaller household size was negatively related
to the number of weeks mothers worked at every time point while higher income was
positively related to the number of weeks mothers worked at every time point. Of note,
relationship status was associated with fewer weeks worked at every time point except
Time 2. The standardized coefficients and 95% confidence intervals for paths between
IPV, time-varying covariates, and annual weeks worked are presented in Table 3.
Table 2. Standardized coefficients of time invariant covariates for employment outcomes
(N=4,897). [AQ: 19]
Annual Weeks Worked Employment Status
Race and Ethnicity
High school 0.227*
More than high
* Indicates a significant relationship.
Showalter et al. 11
Employment status. The model fit was determined to be good (RMSEA=0.029, 90% CI=
[0.026, 0.033]; CFI= 0.999 TLI=0.993; WRMR=0.735). At Time 2, experiencing IPV
was significantly associated unemployment (β=-0.048, p=0.019). Time 2 IPV experi-
ences were also related to unemployment six years later at Time 4 (β=-0.050, p=0.041).
Table 3. Standardized coefficients of time-varying covariates for annual weeks worked
(N=4,897). [AQ: 20]
Time 1 Time 2 Time 3 Time 4
β [95% CI] β [95% CI] β [95% CI] β [95% CI]
Household size –0.102*
Household size –0.040*
Household size –0.050*
Household size –0.077*
* Indicates a significant relationship.
12 Work, Employment and Society 00(0)
At each time point, a larger household size and being in a relationship were related to
being unemployed while income was related to being employed. The standardized coef-
ficients and 95% confidence intervals for paths between IPV, time-varying covariates,
and employment status are presented in Table 4.
Table 4. Standardized coefficients of time-varying covariates for employment status
(N=4,897). [AQ: 21].
Time 1 Time 2 Time 3 Time 4
β [95% CI] β [95% CI] β [95% CI] β [95% CI]
Household size –0.115*
Household size –0.114*
Household size –0.097*
Household size –0.118*
* Indicates a significant relationship.
Showalter et al. 13
The current study examined the effect of IPV on mothers’ employment outcomes over
time. Informed by previous literature, the analysis concentrated on two forms of survi-
vors’ employment instability: missing weeks of work and unemployment. Results indi-
cated that for mothers with a three-year-old child, experiencing IPV is associated with
missing weeks of work annually, unemployment, and a lagged effect on unemployment
six years after abuse has occurred.
There are similarities between the findings from the current study and previous known
literature of survivors’ employment instability (Kimerling et al., 2009; Meisel et al.,
2003; Stylianou, 2018). Similar to Meisel et al. (2003), the current study found an asso-
ciation between weeks worked and IPV. However, unlike Meisel et al. (2003) not all
participants in the current study were receiving welfare, indicating the effect of IPV on
weeks worked may be experienced by survivors across incomes. The current study also
compares to at least two studies (Kimerling et al., 2009; Stylianou, 2018) finding a
within-time correlation between unemployment and IPV. However, knowledge of survi-
vors’ unemployment over time is expanded upon. The current study found a lagged-
effect of IPV on employment status that related longitudinal research has not found (see
Adams et al., 2012; Browne et al., 1999; Bryne et al., 1999). The unique finding that IPV
significantly increases mothers’ likelihood of unemployment six years after abuse has
occurred could be the result of LGC model used to examine employment status trajecto-
ries. In this, it may be that in order to detect an effect of IPV on employment status one
must look longitudinally at the most critical time points in survivors’ lives and compare
those time points to women who do not experience abuse.
Both weeks worked and employment status increased over time. This is consistent
with what is known about maternal employment, that as children get older mothers
obtain employment and work more frequently (Hynes and Clarkberg, 2005). Missing
weeks of work showed significant individual variation in rate of change. This is impor-
tant because beyond demographic characteristics, the study sample and findings repre-
sent women who work various proportions of weeks and times during the year.
Several control variables were significantly associated with employment outcomes.
In both models, income was positively related to the employment outcomes at nearly
every time point. This finding seems intuitive given the financial reward of being
employed. In the annual weeks worked model as well as the employment status model,
an increase in household size was negatively correlated with employment outcomes.
Having a larger household could lead mothers to miss more weeks of work if they stay
home to take care of children or to be terminated from work if they are consistently late
due to parenting responsibilities (e.g. taking children to school or daycare).
Due to the vital opportunity of financial independence employment creates, future
researchers should continue to study survivors’ employment instability trends over time.
First, researchers should build on the current study by analyzing survivors’ employment
trajectories over their lifespan. Determining the moments in survivors’ lives when IPV is
14 Work, Employment and Society 00(0)
most likely to impact employment would help to understand when employer support is
most needed. Additionally, future research should build on the current study by exploring
workplace supports and interventions to help survivors avoid losing their jobs and annual
weeks worked. It seems that mothers with a child who is three-years-old are particularly
vulnerable to employment instability. Thus, researchers could focus on examining the
effectiveness of evidence based interventions for unemployment (i.e. ACCESS;
Advancing Career Counseling and Employment Support for Survivors of Domestic
Violence; Chronister and McWhirter, 2006; Davidson et al., 2012), zero-tolerance
employer policies (Martinez, 2015), or organizational protocols (Futures Without
Violence, 2018) for mothers at this specific life stage.
After World War II, paid employment for women in the US consisted of managerial
authority systems and informal behaviors to govern workplace culture (Vallas, 2011).
Workplace culture historically has not supported a “work-life balance” with women
reporting more often than men that they cannot meet both their demands of work and
families (Lim and Misra, 2019). Thus, the first challenge of advocating for IPV survivors
in the workplace, is supporting women (particularly caregivers) in general by building
acceptance of work-life balance. Second, from the top down, organizational hierarchies
that more actively support their employee’s safety, and acknowledge that IPV is an issue
that impacts work, invest in the organizational culture and employee well-being which
may be related to increased productivity. Simply understanding there are severe financial
costs of partner abuse for individual employees and employers (i.e. $727.8 million dol-
lars annually for employers or $110 billion dollars for every 7,000 survivors over their
lifetimes) might compel organizational leaders [AQ: 22] (CDC, 2003; Peterson et al.,
2018) [AQ: 23]. Third, organizational policy and procedure that routinely supports IPV
survivors can be adopted as described below.
The current findings have important implications for organizational, state, and federal
policies protecting survivors. Formal organizational or company policies that could keep
survivors working are underutilized, costing both individuals and employers (Maurer,
2012; Peterson et al., 2018). Therefore, adopting existing guidelines like those suggested
by national and global violence experts (see Futures Without Violence, 2018; Pillinger,
2020) [AQ: 24]could help retain and protect employees. This support from employers
could help reduce employee stress levels which may increase employment stability and
productivity (Yragui et al., 2012) [AQ: 25]. Further, current findings suggest state poli-
cies that allow IPV survivors protection from being fired or discriminated against are
likely to be especially crucial for mothers of young children but are underutilized with
less than four states in total having this type of legislation as of 2015 (Laharnar et al.,
2015). Perhaps the solution here is not to rely on states to individually pass protective
legislation but for federal policymakers to take action. Last, if FVO [AQ: 26] are indeed
underutilized (Swanberg et al., 2012) then the current study leads one to assume that
mothers experiencing IPV are not only are at-risk for losing government assistance when
their child is three but also six years later.
It is also worth noting that this study has implications for HR staff and EAPs
[AQ: 27]working with survivors. Job settings may be the only places outside of the
home that survivors interact with people who are not their abusive partner and so it is
crucial that employee-wellbeing-gatekeepers receive the IPV training they need (Maurer,
Add the following to the end
of the sentence,
to support IPV survivors to
keep them employed over
CDC 2003 should be
Brieding et al., 2003
Breiding, M., Basile, K.
C., Smith, S. G., Black,
M. C., & Mahendra, R.
R. (2015). Intimate
elements. Version 2.0.
Showalter et al. 15
2012). Specifically, EAPs are thought to be a primary support source for survivors (Falk
et al., 2019) [AQ: 28]and referral to community or counseling services could greatly
assist survivors. However, EAPs do not have universal methods for addressing IPV and
generally rely on self-disclosure of abuse (Hardison Walters et al., 2012). Systematic
support from workplaces, emotionally, financially, or physical time off from work could
keep survivors working and potentially more prepared to leave dangerous relationships.
Support feasibility is likely impacted by employer size (EAPs exist only at employers
with 50+ employees), resources, or environment and so developing formal policy and
procedures for supporting survivors may be the best way to assist employees across all
positions and fields.
Overall, one intervention point may not be enough but a host of services, including
workplaces, could greatly change survivors’ reality. In this, not all victims use victim
services (only 18%), receive medical care (34%), or call police (56%) but most of them
need to work to support themselves, particularly those with children (Truman and
Morgan, 2014). Economic well-being supports victims, families [AQ: 29] but also con-
tributes positively to communities and reduces the need for other programs (MacGregor
et al., 2019).
While the current study offers considerable knowledge regrading survivors’ employment
trajectories, it is limited in measurement of time points, measurement of variables and
the age and focus of the data. First, the current study looks at eight years of time in a
mothers’ life but it does not look at data for each year individually. Given that findings
show a critical effect of IPV when mothers have a three-year-old child, it would be ben-
eficial to know if the previous and following years are also critical. Similarly, there could
be a later point in survivors’ lives when they also experience employment instability that
is not captured in the current analysis. Second, while the CTS (Straus, 1979) is a widely
accepted tool for measuring IPV, it has been critiqued for failing to include some types
of IPV and for not taking into account the context of abusive incidents (Lloyd and Taluc,
1999). It is also possible that survivors did not want to admit they had experienced IPV
given the stigma attached to abuse or were not given the survey questions if they had
separated from an abusive partner. In this, the current study might not fully capture par-
ticipants’ experiences of IPV and could be missing a form of abuse that effects employ-
ment. The measurement of employment outcomes is also limited. It would be meaningful
to know more about the type of employment that survivors had so that specific recom-
mendations by sector could be made, but this data was not available. Further, given the
low Chronbach’s alpha scores found, the CTS (Straus, 1979) might not be the best fit for
the current sample. Last, because the most recent wave of FFCW data analyzed was col-
lected in 2010, findings might not reflect changes in employment policy and specifically
more recent protections for public employees that exist in states (Legal Momentum,
2013; Swanberg et al., 2012) [AQ: 30] [AQ: 31]. It is also true that FFCW concen-
trated on a sample of mothers who lived in large urban areas and were economically
disadvantaged, so results do not reflect the general population.
Remove legal momentum, Swanberg
2012 is correct.
supports victims and their
The correct citation is:
Falk et al., 2001
Falk, D. R., Shepard, M. F., &
Elliott, B. A. (2001). Evaluation of
a domestic violence assessment
protocol used by employee
Employee Assistance Quarterly,
16 Work, Employment and Society 00(0)
Employment presents an opportunity for abusive partners to control and sabotage survi-
vors’ independence, especially for mothers who are financially responsible for children.
The current study established a within-time and longitudinal effect of IPV on employ-
ment when looking at the employment trajectories of mothers. Unemployment and miss-
ing weeks of work were significantly more likely to occur among women who experienced
IPV when mothers had a three-year-old child, indicating that services are critical for
women at this time. Employers should explore ways in which to support women with
young children experiencing IPV so that they maintain employment. Specifically, related
literature shows that survivors would like to be approached and asked if they are okay
(Yragui et al., 2012), a zero-cost solution to supporting survivors. Similarly, practitioners
should include employment-specific services for mothers of young children, such as
advocating to employers on survivors’ behalf for time off to seek safety. Lastly, state-
level protection for IPV survivors should be more widespread. Currently, less than ten
states [AQ: 32] have legislation that prohibits discriminating or terminating an
employee who is a survivor of IPV (Swanberg et al., 2012).
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this
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Kathryn Showalter is Assistant Professor in the College of Social Work at the University of
Kentucky. Her research focuses on the employment of women who experience intimate partner
violence. Dr. Showalter aims to identify the ways in which abusive partners harass and sabotage
employment in order to create workplace support responses. Her current research includes: (1)
examining nursing professionals’ abuse experiences during COVID-19; (2) investigation of state
employment policies for supporting abuse survivors; and (3) measurement development of abuser-
initiated workplace disruptions.
Susan Yoon is Assistant Professor at The Ohio State University College of Social Work. Her
research promotes resilience and well-being in children who have experienced early childhood
trauma, including child maltreatment and exposure to intimate partner violence. Her current
research includes (1) an exploration of the conceptualization and measurement of resilience;
(2) investigation of the developmental pathways from child maltreatment to behavioral risks
and resilience; and (3) the role of fathers in resilient development of youth with trauma
TK Logan is Professor at the University of Kentucky, Department of Behavioral Science. Her
research focuses on stalking/cyberstalking, partner abuse, coercive control, sexual assault, firearms
20 Work, Employment and Society 00(0)
in the context of partner abuse, and personal safety. Dr. Logan is an author on over 175 scholarly
publications and serves on the editorial board of two international journals. Dr. Logan’s books
include: Women and Victimization: Contributing Factors, Interventions, and Implications
(American Psychological Association Press) and Partner Stalking: How Women Respond, Cope,
and Survive (Springer Publisher). [AQ: 43]
Date submitted October 2020
Date accepted June 2021