We used grounded theory to understand pathways and trajectories to housing instability (HI) and poor health among low-income women with experiences of intimate partner violence (IPV). We conducted in-depth interviews during 2010–11 with forty-one women (ages 18–45 years) living in Ontario, Canada. All women reported depressive symptoms in combination with other health problems. In addition to the direct pathway of IPV to poor health, thematic analysis revealed an indirect multi-tiered pathway with complex trajectories among IPV, HI, and poor health. These trajectories included material HI (homelessness, high mobility, evictions, problems paying rent, hiding, and landlord discrimination), psychological HI (feeling unsafe, low self-esteem, and poor control), and social trajectories (financial problems, loss of employment, income, or social networks, and leaving school). These trajectories elevated stress and decreased self-care (unhealthy behaviors, substance abuse, and reduced medical compliance) and exacerbated poor health already compromised by IPV. Depending on her specific context, each woman experienced these pathways and trajectories differently. Moreover, the women’s experiences differed across three time periods: before, immediately after, and long after leaving an abusive relationship. Finally, we found that for these women, achieving stable housing was crucial for stabilizing their health.
- Complex multi-layered interactions
- housing instability
- intimate partner violence
- low-income women
- pathways and trajectories
- women’s mental and physical health