Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Co-Leslie Leighninger

Second Advisor

Kenneth I. Millar


This dissertation is an empirical policy analysis which investigates the effect of domestic violence on a woman's welfare status, employment, and mental health within the context of new policies instituted by welfare reform. It uses quantitative data from a panel survey, and qualitative narratives from respondents who reported current domestic abuse. Multivariate analysis of welfare outcomes finds that domestic violence affects welfare outcomes indirectly through its effect on depression. Depression is associated with unemployment, continuing on TANF, and being sanctioned off welfare. Domestic violence is one of the strongest predictors of the level of reported depression. Abuse is not directly related to whether a woman is on TANF, leaves welfare voluntarily or has been sanctioned off the program. Further analysis shows that domestic violence is not statistically significant in predicting employment. This suggests that when domestic violence affects welfare status and employment it does so through its effect on mental health. Women's stories about abuse indicate that domestic violence is a serious life threatening problem. Even though the state has adopted the Family Violence Option to assist women who are experiencing abuse, none of the ten women interviewed received help through this program. Reasons for the failure of this policy to provide meaningful help include the lack of knowledge women have about the policy; their unwillingness to disclose the abuse, and the inability of the system to take meaningful action on their behalf. None of the women in the qualitative sample were employed during the worst of the abuse. The qualitative findings suggest that the window during which violence affects employment may be relatively short for most women---a statistical effect may only be noticeable if women are surveyed during the period surrounding the end of the relationship. Narratives show that domestic violence has immediate consequences that affect employment through interaction with the criminal justice system, increased isolation, lack of stable housing, need for closer supervision of children who have also been traumatized by the abuse, and ongoing health and mental health concerns.