COLUMBUS, Ohio Even after leaving a violent or controlling relationship, the mental health of mothers may actually get worse before it gets better, a new study suggests.
Researchers found that in the two years after the end of an abusive relationship, mothers showed poorer mental health, became more depressed and maintained high levels of anxiety. In those areas, they were no better off than women who stayed in abusive relationships.
However, abused mothers who had more social support fared better after the end of their relationship than did similar mothers with less help from friends and family.
"Our findings really help us understand how unstable those first few years are for mothers who leave violent or controlling relationships," said Kate Adkins, lead author of the study, who did the work as a doctoral student at Ohio State University.
"Even though getting out of the relationship may be good in the long run, they first have to deal with multiple sources of stress, including financial problems, single parenting and sharing custody with the abuser."
Adkins conducted the study with Claire Kamp Dush, assistant professor of human development and family science at Ohio State. Their results appear online in the journal Social Science Research and will be published in a future print edition.
The findings don't suggest that women shouldn't leave abusive partners, Kamp Dush emphasized.
"What our results mean is that these women still need a lot of support and a lot of services even after they leave. Family members and friends may think things are OK because she has left the abuser. But she still needs support and she still needs social services," Kamp Dush said.
The researchers used data from the Fragile Families and Child Well-being study, a project of Princeton and Columbia universities. They used data on about 2,400 mothers who were married to, or co-habiting with, the father of the
|Contact: Claire Kamp Dush|
Ohio State University