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Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention 2005 5(1):109-120; doi:10.1093/brief-treatment/mhi005
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Brief Treatment and Crisis Intervention Vol. 5 No. 1, © Oxford University Press 2005; all rights reserved.

Original Article

The Impact of Domestic Violence on Depression in Teen Mothers: Is the Fear or Threat of Violence Sufficient?

   Barb Sussex, PhD
   Kevin Corcoran, PhD, JD

From Insights Teen Parent Program, Portland, Oregon (Sussex), and the Graduate School of Social Work, Portland State University, Portland, Oregon (Corcoran)

Contact author: Barb Sussex, Insights Teen Parent Program, 2020 SE Powell, Portland, OR 97202. E-mail: bsussex{at}

The purpose of this study was to assess whether the fear or threat of intimate partner violence (IPV) impacted depression and peer support among a population of pregnant and parenting female adolescents, and whether cessation made a difference. The sample consisted of 286 teen mothers participating in a substance abuse prevention intervention. Data were self-report assessed at 6-month intervals from entry through 18 months. IPV was defined by a report of avoidance of another within the past 6 months out of fear or threat of violence and was also assessed for those aged 18 and older with measures from the Abuse Assessment Screen (AAS). Depression and peer support were measured using modified versions of the Center for Epidemiologic Studies–Depression scale and the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, respectively. At baseline, 26.5% of participants reported avoiding someone out of fear or threat of violence in the past 6 months, and by the end of the study, 36.9% reported avoidance at some time over 18 months. Mothers reporting IPV both subjectively (i.e., fear or threat) and directly (i.e., AAS) had significantly higher depression at the 12- and 18-month assessment periods, and those in continuous fear of IPV and new cases also had higher depression at 12 and 18 months. Cessation of IPV did not significantly affect depression scores. Regarding peer support, young women in IPV situations at baseline reported significantly less peer support at both baseline and the 6-month period. Additionally, findings suggest that peer support improves when the fear or threat of violence ends. Finally, correlations between peer support and depression show that as scores on peer support decreased, there was a concomitant increase in depression.

KEY WORDS: domestic violence, depression, peer support, teen moms

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