2020 Robert S. Schneider Dissertation Award

Contest Winner: Shih-Ying Cheng

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a widespread, serious issue in the United States (U.S.). IPV victimization has considerable impacts on survivors. In addition to the sequela of direct injury, accumulating evidence suggests strong associations between IPV and adverse physical outcomes, mental health symptoms, and health risk behaviors.

The proposed dissertation study will examine the association of policy-, neighborhood- and case-level factors and IPH over time, focusing on differences within and between victims’ sex and race/ethnicity subgroups. The policies that will be examined include measures of gun control (e.g., firearm restriction and confiscation state laws), welfare benefit level (i.e., AFDC/TANF), and domestic violence arrest policies (i.e., mandatory arrest and warrantless arrest polices). Some evidence suggests that these policies are associated with IPH rates by (a) keeping IPV offenders away at critically dangerous moments, (b) decreasing the use of lethal means, and (c) decreasing financial stress family experience (e.g., Dugan, Nagin, & Rosenfeld, 2003; Raissian, 2016; Zeoli & Webster, 2010). Social policies, however, may create differential impacts for certain subgroups in the population.

Guided by the intersectionality (Collins, 1993) and an ecological conceptual perspective (Heise, 1998), the proposed dissertation will investigate the different impacts of policies for subgroups. In light of the existing literature, it is hypothesized that more firearm restriction and confiscation state laws, increased welfare benefit level, and the presence of mandatory and warrantless arrest polices are associated with decreased overall IPH rates, respectively. However, the existing studies are not sufficient to guide hypotheses on how these polices would affect the IPH rates by sex and race/ethnicity. It is possible that, for example, firearm restriction and confiscation state laws were associated with decreased IPH rates for female IPHs only, but not male IPHs.

It is anticipated that this dissertation study will provide rigorous empirical evidence on what state polices are associated with decreased IPH rate, and equally important, how these polices are associated with decreased IPH rate among varied social groups by sex and race/ethnicity. Results of the analysis will inform evidence-based policy making (Sanderson, 2002) in preventing future IPH as well as providing insights on whether preventive efforts are equally effective to all subgroups. These results can directly inform advocacy efforts to adjust policies and to address IPV and IPH. Practitioners and activists who work with minority groups can also gain insights from this study on how policies may work differently for subgroups. For example, given the barriers of accessing help from the criminal justice system among women of color (Meloy & Miller, 2011; Richie, 2012), It is possible that the mandatory and warrantless arrest polices were not helpful to them in decreasing IPHs—although the policies might be helpful for another subgroup.

The careful examination on the differential effects of policies on subgroups then can bring in contextual and indepth conversations on how to tailor social services and systematic responses to subgroups. This is particularly urgent and important to the field of gender-based violence as data has indicated significant sex and race/ethnicity disparities in IPH. A CDC estimate points out that the majority of victims of IPH are female, with African American and American Indian/Alaska Native women experiencing higher rates than white women (Petrosky et al., 2017). This study will help inform how the disparities were made and what can be done to address the disparities.

According to the most recent national estimates (Breiding et al., 2014; Howden & Meyer, 2011), it is suggested that over 100 million adults in the U.S. have experienced some form of IPV during their lifetime and can be potential victims of intimate partner homicide (IPH). As the actual
occurrence of IPH is rarer than IPV, it is reported that, within U.S., about 1,000 females and 300 males died at the hand of their intimate partner every year (FBI, 2019). The proposed dissertation study will examine the impacts of policies on the rates of IPH, and thus, it is expected that the results  of this study will benefit 100 million IPV victim in the U.S., and, possibly, save some lives among  the 1,300 IPHs per year.