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Q+A: Assessing the Durability of a Cash Transfer on Physical Intimate Partner Violence

May 22, 2024

Cash transfer programs can positively affect adolescent girls’ sexual and reproductive health. For example, one cash transfer program in South Africa reduced adolescent girls’ risk of intimate partner violence (IPV) by 34 percent. The cash transfer reduced IPV by promoting safer sexual partnerships.

A new study published in Social Science & Medicine led by researchers at the Dornsife School of Public Health including Ali Groves, PhD, MHS, associate professor of community health and prevention, and Luwam Gebrekristos, MPH, doctoral student, builds on this research to understand whether the benefits of a cash transfer program were sustained 2.5 years after the cash ended.

Using mixed methods, researchers evaluated when the impacts of the cash transfer were the greatest and how adolescent girls who received the cash transfer felt it influenced their relationships over time. Adolescent girls were the most protected from IPV while they were receiving the cash. However, adolescent girls who received the cash transfer were less likely to report having a sexual partner 2.5 years after the cash transfer ended compared to adolescent girls who did not receive cash. Some adolescent girls described how cash transfers empowered them to leave risky relationships. A few adolescent girls felt reliant on their partners for cash after the program ended, which may have affected their ongoing exposure to violence.

To learn more, Groves and Gebrekristos answered some questions about these findings.

Q: What are the top conclusions drawn from this research?

A: Cash transfer programs provide adolescent girls the strongest protection from IPV while they are receiving the cash. Receiving a cash transfer has positive impacts on other aspects of sexual partnerships even after the cash ended.

Q: Why are social protection programs like cash transfers important for the future of public health?

A: Cash transfers are important for public health because poverty can increase IPV and HIV risk. Even modest cash transfers – like this one – can yield promising impacts. In this cash transfer, adolescent girls received approximately $10 a month and their parents received $20 a month. The effects of this transformative poverty reduction approach are especially promising given that adolescence is an important window of opportunity for IPV prevention: it is often the first time that adolescents experience violence in sexual relationships, which affects their relationships into early adulthood.

Q: Why is it critical to evaluate the success of interventions like this?

A: While there is a growing body of literature showing the benefits of cash transfer programs for sexual and reproductive health, few evaluate what happens after the cash ends. Our research helps to fill this gap.

Q: How can this research inform future study design?

A: Future research should examine the long-term benefits of cash transfers. Future research might also examine whether cash transfers offered alongside other services yield health benefits.

Q: Though this research was conducted abroad, what takeaways are important for the U.S.?

A: Cash transfer programs have the potential to improve health everywhere, including the U.S. Cash transfers decrease poverty-related stressors and increase empowerment by allowing individuals to direct cash to their needs. In turn, these programs can foster safer relationships and improve health.

In light of these findings and the persistent challenges of reducing HIV and IPV among adolescent girls in the region, further research is needed to determine the optimal duration of these programs, assess their cost-effectiveness relative to other strategies for reducing intimate partner violence and HIV, and explore whether additional support could bolster the protective effects of cash for adolescent girls and young women after the cash ends.

Read full study