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Weaving a Tangled Safety Net: The Intergenerational Legacy of Domestic Violence and Poverty

NCJ Number
Violence Against Women Volume: 9 Issue: 10 Dated: October 2003 Pages: 1263-1277
Diane M. Purvin
Date Published
October 2003
15 pages
This article presents a case study to highlight the intergenerational legacy of domestic violence in poor families.
Children that witness their mothers being abused are somewhat more likely to become abusive themselves (if they are boys) and to be abused in their adult relationships (if they are girls). This case study focused on the everyday lives and relationships of low-income women and on the meaning that public assistance has for women whose autonomy and/or sense of agency has been undermined by abuse. In interviews over two and a half years, Isabella spoke about her childhood as the daughter of an impoverished battered mother. Her story reveals the long-term impact of poverty, welfare, and abuse on her life, her family and intimate relationships, and her experiences of motherhood. The interpretation of the events in her life demonstrate the complex ways in which childhood experiences of abuse and poverty can contribute to vulnerability and resilience in adolescent and adult intimate relationships and can shape economic choices and outcomes in young adulthood. A striking feature of Isabella’s case was her remarkable personal resiliency. One of the key factors differentiating Isabella from other respondents was that she experienced only minimal direct physical victimization and no sexual victimization. Isabella’s story reveals the limits of social policy that focuses on employment and rolls back the supportive services and income transfers of the welfare state for redressing the intergenerational transmission of poverty and abuse. Researchers have only begun to explore the connections between domestic violence and poverty and the profound consequences and damaging correlates of intimate abuse for poor mothers. 5 notes, 7 references


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