The effect of intimate partner violence on mother's parenting : adult children's views : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Social Work at Massey University (Palmerston North) New Zealand
Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) has profound impact on mothers and their relationship with their children. This study, undertaken in Australia, examined the impact of (IPV) on mothers’ parenting by focussing on adult children’s perspectives of their mothers who parented in an IPV environment. It is estimated that one in six women in Australia has experienced physical or sexual violence by their current or former cohabiting partners and that more than half those affected women had children at the time of the incident. These statistics sparked interest to explore how the children who grew up in this environment perceived their mothers parenting, her relationship with them and her parenting style. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six adult children aged between 18 and late 40s who had grown up in the context of IPV perpetuated against their mothers. All participants resided in Victoria, Australia. The interviews were voice-recorded, transcribed and thematically analysed. Thematic analysis highlighted the parenting challenges faced by mothers in the context of a violent relationship. Feminist theory and an analysis of societal patriarchy were used in this study to understand the impact of power and control over mothers and their children by fathers. Intersectionality highlighted the fact that, in addition to experiencing IPV, there were other factors that compounded on mothers’ situation, namely culture beliefs and language barriers. The study found that participants perceived that IPV had negatively impacted on their mother’s parenting. The mother’s ability to comfort and be emotionally present for children was affected. Participants felt they could not rely on their mothers for protection and this had affected their relationship. IPV had also impacted on mothers’ parenting style as they were viewed as either being strict with their children or preoccupied with their IPV experience and leaving children to take care of themselves. Findings indicate that some children had to take on adult roles and support their mothers. Another factor that impacted was language barriers, as mothers had limited English language which made it difficult for them to seek support. Mothers experiencing IPV had been isolated and this had impacted on their parenting as they relied more on their children and on fathers for financial support. The adult children did, however, acknowledge their mothers’ efforts in compensating for the violence they witnessed and noted their mothers’ strengths and resilience as they parented them during this challenging time. Participants identified that some of their mothers had spent time with them, taking them to the shops and to the playground. This study acknowledges that IPV has an impact on mothers’ parenting and therefore social workers and practitioners working with these mothers should work on changing societal beliefs about violence and men’s behaviours. This study makes a contribution to understanding the impact of IPV on mothers’ parenting, parenting style and mother-child relationships in Australia. The study highlights the importance of culture, language and gender in understanding IPV on mothers. Implications for policies and practices have been identified together with recommendations for future research.