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Family violence, employment status, welfare benefits, and alcohol drinking in the United States: what is the relation?


OBJECTIVES This study examined the contribution of employment status, welfare benefits, alcohol use, and other individual, and contextual factors to physical aggression during marital conflict.

METHODS Logistic regression models were used to analyse panel data collected in the National Survey of Families and Households in 1987 and 1992. A total of 4780 married or cohabiting persons re-interviewed in 1992 were included in the analysis. Domestic violence was defined as reporting that both partners were physically violent during arguments.

RESULTS It was found that non-employed respondents are not at greater risk of family violence in comparison with employed respondents, after controlling for alcohol misuse, income, education, age, and other factors; however, employed persons receiving welfare benefits are at significantly higher risk. Alcohol misuse, which remains a predictor of violence even after controlling for other factors, increases the risk of family violence while satisfaction with social support from family and friends decreases it.

CONCLUSION These results underscore the important effect of alcohol misuse on domestic violence, and the need to monitor the potential impact of welfare reform on domestic violence.

  • family violence
  • alcohol misuse
  • employment status
  • welfare benefits

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  • Funding: we would like to thank Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station for the award of a Hatch Grant that made possible this research effort. The National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH) was funded by a grant (HD21009) from the Center for Population Research of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

  • Conflicts of interest: none.