I'll catch you when you fall: Social safety nets and housing instability in IPV-exposed pregnant women


Background: Intimate partner violence (IPV) has significant consequences for women's mental health, and it also compromises women's economic security and livelihood, including housing stability. There is a dearth of research, however, on protective factors in the link between housing instability and psychopathology in IPV-exposed women. Methods: The current study examines the protective role of social support in the association between housing instability and mental health (depression, posttraumatic stress) in a sample of pregnant, IPV-exposed women (N = 137). Results: Overall models for both depression and posttraumatic stress were significant (F = 6.42, p<.001; R2=16.3%; F = 15.09, p<.001; R2=31.0%, respectively). Housing instability was significantly associated with higher levels of depressed mood (β=0.20, p<.016), but not posttraumatic stress symptoms. Social support was significantly associated with lower levels of depressed mood (β=-0.17, p<.036) and posttraumatic stress (β=-0.38, p =0.001). The addition of the interaction term (housing instability*social support) resulted in a significant improvement in variance explained from the main effects model for depression (F = 4.90, p<.028, ∆R2=3.0%) and the interaction term was significant (β=-0.60, p=.029). An interaction effect of housing instability and social support on posttraumatic stress was not identified. Limitations: Although the current study is the first to examine protective factors in the relationship between housing instability and psychopathology in IPV-exposed pregnant women, data were cross-sectional and therefore directionality and temporality cannot be inferred. Conclusions: Results suggest that housing instability may play a greater role in women's depressed mood than in their experience of posttraumatic stress symptoms, and the presence of social support may substantially ameliorate the effect of this adversity.

Publication Title

Journal of Affective Disorders