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Violence Against Women: The Role of Welfare Reform, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 2003
107 pages
This final project report presents a study that examined the prevalence and victim outcomes of domestic violence among welfare-to-work recipients in California.
The current study researched three key issues: (1) the prevalence of domestic violence under welfare reform conditions in California and the implications for the provision of domestic violence assistance; (2) the effect of domestic violence in terms of welfare tenure and the capacity to gain employment over a 3-year period; and (3) the well-being of children of female welfare participants who live in violent households. Congress recognized the special standing of domestic violence in relation to welfare reform when it enacted the Family Violence Option, which permits States to grant domestic violence exemptions regarding welfare-to-work provisions under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). At least 38 States have enacted such exemptions. California was chosen as the site for the current study because it has allocated substantial funds to the identification and provision of services to TANF recipients who experience domestic violence. A comprehensive definition of domestic violence was adopted which incorporated the Conflict Tactics Scale. Participants were 643 randomly selected new TANF applicants and long-term applicants from 2 California counties. Participants were surveyed three times: baseline, 12 months, and 15 months, beginning in the summer of 1999. Results of descriptive statistics and multiple regression analysis revealed four important findings relevant to welfare reform. First, the findings indicated high rates of domestic violence among the welfare reform population. In approximately 15 percent of the cases, severe abuse was reported; over the 3-year study period, a total of 37 percent of the women reported serious domestic violence. Second, serious mental health problems and/or alcohol or other drug problem co-occurred with domestic violence in a large proportion of the welfare reform population. Third, domestic violence impairs a woman’s capacity to find employment; at the end of 1 year, 28 percent of women were working at least 26 hours a week if they did not experience domestic violence, while only 12 percent of the women who experienced domestic violence worked. Fourth, the presence of domestic violence is associated with deleterious outcomes for children. Policy implications focus on potential legislative changes and practice implications involve the development of a collaborative relationship between welfare agencies and domestic violence service agencies. Exhibits, endnotes

Date Published: April 1, 2003