• Welfare recidivism: An examination of selected interpersonal factors as determinants of a return to welfare

      Mathews, Deborah Ann; Harrington, Donna (2000)
      Passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, more popularly known as "welfare reform", has been considered the most drastic overhaul of the welfare system since its inception. Perhaps the most radical feature of this legislation is limiting adults to a total of five years of welfare benefits, which can either be five consecutive years, or an accumulation of sixty months with the recipient's status periodically moving from welfare dependent to independent. Lost in the public affirmations of the success of welfare reform is the fact that Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) presents a swinging door for many people. Estimates of the number of welfare recidivists are universally high, ranging from 34% to more than 50%. Given these high numbers, and the ticking of the five year clock imposed by the TANF legislation, it is imperative to identify individuals most likely to become recidivists, and to develop appropriate intervention strategies to help them reach financial independence. While most of the extant research associates the return to welfare with a number of demographic and human capital characteristics, this dissertation explores the question of whether or not certain interpersonal factors act as barriers to success, that is as factors which have an effect on recidivism or returns to welfare (TANF) among those who have exited. This research examines locus of control, perceived social support from family, and coping skills, measured using Rotter's Internal-External Locus of Control, the Coping Responses Inventory-Adult, and the Perceived Social Support of Family scales, as possible explanations of recidivism by comparing a sample of recidivists and nonrecidivists. Using Expectancy Theory as a social-psychological framework for understanding how poverty might affect a person's behavior, it was hypothesized that those individuals with a more internal locus of control, higher levels of perceived social support from their families, and better coping skills, would be more likely to avoid returning to public assistance after an exit. Logistical regression analyses indicated that the two groups differed on one variable: coping skills. Individuals who did not return to welfare were significantly more likely to use approach coping (problem-focused cognitive and behavioral attempts to resolve or master a problem), than were individuals who returned to welfare.