Intimate Partner Violence as an Obstacle to Employment Among Mothers Affected by Welfare Reform


  • This research was supported by a grant to the first author from the National Institute of Justice (2001-WT-BX-0002). Thanks to Gillian Mason and Kelly Kinnison for research assistance and Dan Lewis, Rebecca Campbell, Irene Frieze, and anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier draft. We are especially grateful to the women who shared their life experiences for this study.

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Stephanie Riger, 1009 Behavioral Sciences Building, Mail Code 285, 1007 W. Harrison St., Chicago, IL 60607–7137, [e-mail:].


Welfare policies in the United States now make benefits contingent on employment outside the home. Yet violence from intimate partners and aspects of the mothering role may impede low-income women's ability to sustain employment. This article presents results of a longitudinal study conducted over a three-year period of 965 Illinois mothers who had received public assistance. Results suggest that recent (but not past) intimate partner violence is associated with women working fewer months. Associations over time between obstacles to employment and women's ability to maintain work highlight the need for longitudinal studies of employment among low-income women.