Katz, C. C., Courtney, M. E., & Sapiro, B. (2020). Emancipated foster youth and intimate partner violence: An exploration of risk and protective factors. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 35(23-24), 5469-5499. DOI: 10.1177/0886260517720735
Based on the longitudinal data set, ‘Midwest Evaluation of the Adult Functioning of Former Foster Youth’, Katz et al. (2020) conducted a secondary data analysis to assess for risk and protective factors of intimate partner violence (IPV) among youth transitioning out of foster care in the Midwestern, United States. The data was collected at 5 waves, when the youth were 17, 19, 21, 23, and 25 years of age. To assess for the presence of IPV, an abbreviated version of the Conflict Tactics Scale (Straus et al., 1996) was utilized, which covered physical and sexual IPV experiences. The following independent variables were included in the data analysis: race, sex, substance misuse, mental health status, child maltreatment (neglect, physical, sexual maltreatment, exposure to IPV) prior to entering care, maltreatment (neglect, physical or sexual maltreatment) while in foster care, and the number of foster homes/residential placement while in foster care. Youth who were in care due to behavioural concerns were not included in the overall sample.
Youth in this sample were most frequently reporting no relationship (34.7% of the sample) or nonviolent relationships at age 23/24 (44.5%). Approximately 21% of youth were in a violent relationship, with bidirectional violence being most commonly reported type (11.4% of the sample). Overall, males were more likely to report being victims of IPV.
The multivariate analysis indicated that youth who had caregivers that engaged in IPV and experienced neglect while in foster care were more likely to engage in bidirectional IPV. Surprisingly, youth who were close to at least 1 biological adult were also more likely to report bidirectional IPV. Anxiety was noted as a risk factor for perpetrating of IPV, whereas PTSD was a protective factor, reducing the likelihood of becoming a perpetrator of IPV.
The authors identified this as the first longitudinal study in the United States to examine the relationship between foster care youth and the risks of intimate partner violence (IPV) while transitioning out of foster care. The study has identified a gap in knowledge related to IPV and youth who transition out of care, and risk factors such as experiencing neglect or physical abuse while in care and multiple placements resulting in a risk of experiencing IPV. The concerns around young women engaging in IPV needs to be interpreted with caution; it is unknown whether this is a result of self defense or other factors.
The initial sample size included interviews with 1100 youth; at the 5th wave of data collection, the sample size had reduced to 600 youth. As noted by the authors, an abbreviated version CTS scale was only administered with youth who reported that they were “dating” or were in a “romantic relationship” and therefore the data analysis may have excluded youth who were in “exclusive relationships”. The interpretation of data was further limited by the division of the sample of the youth into 5 categories (no relationship, violent relationship-victim, violent relationship-perpetrator, violent relationship-bidirectional, and nonviolent), reducing the power analysis of the overall sample size. Placement instability was identified by the authors as a risk factor for youth experiencing IPV; this finding was statistically small and though placement instability should not be dismissed as a risk factor, further exploration is required with a larger sample.