Physical Violence Against Impoverished Women

A Longitudinal Analysis of Risk and Protective Factors

Published In: Women's Health Issues, v. 14, no. 5, Sep./Oct. 2004, p. 144-154

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2004

by Suzanne L. Wenzel, Joan S. Tucker, Marc N. Elliott, Grant N. Marshall, Stephanie Williamson

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Violence represents a significant threat to the health of impoverished women. Few studies have examined what characteristics might be associated with increased risk of violence or protection from physical violence directed at such women, although this information is important in informing violence prevention and intervention efforts. This is the first study to our knowledge that has prospectively examined, in representative probability samples of impoverished women, multiple risk and protective factors to understand their relative importance to physical victimization. Study participants were 810 women in Los Angeles County, 402 in shelters and 408 in Section 8 low-income housing, who completed structured interviews at baseline and 6-month follow-up. Significant (p < .05) multivariate predictors of physical violence experienced during the 6 months prior to follow-up interview were physical or sexual violence experienced as a child, physical violence experienced during the 6 months prior to baseline interview, having multiple sexual partners, psychological distress, and poor social support. Results of this study highlight the persistence of physical violence in the lives of impoverished women and plausible, prospective risk factors for this violence. Findings also highlight opportunities to reduce women's risk of experiencing violence through enhancing women's social support and mental health.

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