Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: Impact of State Domestic Violence Arrest Laws on Children's Outcomes

Thursday, November 12, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Kabir Dasgupta, Temple University
Nearly 21% of all violent crimes committed in the U.S. between 2003 and 2012 were related to acts of domestic violence. Victims of domestic violence can be abused physically, emotionally, sexually, and psychologically as well as economically. The total direct economic cost associated with family violence every year in the U.S. exceeds an amount of 37 billion dollars. These costs include payments for medical treatments, forgone earnings, and legal expenses. Although young women remain at the highest risk of victimization of domestic violence, children aged 3 to 17 years are also among the worst sufferers of domestic violence. In particular, nearly 3 million children are affected by domestic violence every year in the U.S. Evidence from the clinical literature suggests that exposure to domestic violence leads to various social, emotional, behavioral, and health related problems among children. Moreover, children subjected to domestic violence are also likely to have poor academic performance and face higher risk of substance misuse. 

Over the past few decades, governments at all levels have enacted policies to reduce domestic violence and the costs it imposes on society. In particular, the Federal government enacted the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) in 1994, Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) in 1984 and Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) in 1974. In addition to federal laws, individually all states have passed various policies to mitigate domestic violence. Along these state laws are the arrest laws for domestic violence incidents. States’ arrest laws for domestic violence cases are classified under three categories: mandatory arrest (the suspected abuser must be arrested), preferred arrest (arresting the abuser is a preferred action) and discretionary arrest (the decision to arrest the suspected abuser is left to the discretion of the law enforcement officer). To date, no study has examined the impact of these laws on a potential victim’s outcomes.

The objective of this study is to examine the relationship between implementation of state arrest laws for domestic violence incidents on a child’s mental health, behavioral, and educational outcomes. Using variation in timing of implementation of arrest laws for domestic violence across states, differences-in-differences analyses are utilized in multiple, large-scale data sets of nationally representative samples (Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Uniform Crime Reports and Current Population Survey) to study the impact of these laws on multiple policy relevant outcomes. Results indicate presence of substantial heterogeneity with respect to impact of states’ arrest laws on the outcomes studied. The findings are robust to multiple sensitivity checks to address key threats to identification. Conclusions drawn from this study will be useful for policy makers as they develop strategies to further reduce problems related to domestic violence and its related harmful effects on the society.