Keeping it together for the kids: New mothers' descriptions of the impact of intimate partner violence on parenting

Child Abuse Negl. 2020 Jan;99:104268. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2019.104268. Epub 2019 Nov 29.


Background: Intimate partner violence (IPV) affects 1 in 3 US women with the effects of IPV detectable for several generations. While IPV is known to have significant impacts on maternal-child outcomes, little is known about the mother's perspectives of the interplay between perinatal IPV exposure, parenting styles, and safety strategies.

Methods: This secondary analysis of semi-structured, longitudinal qualitative interview data explored with pregnant women their histories of IPV, their parenting practices, and safety strategies. Data were derived from a randomized controlled trial, DOVE, with 22 interviews from 11 women collected during pregnancy and 12 or 24 months postpartum.

Results: Data were analyzed using constant comparative analysis resulting in three themes: "broken spirit," "I want better for my kids and me," and "safety planning as an element of parenting." Women described at baseline having a "broken spirit" due to their experiences with household and family chaos and childhood abuse. However, when mothers ended the abusive relationship, they described a better life and several strategies to protect themselves and their children. During their final interviews, mothers discussed how their lives improved after ending the relationship as well as safety planning strategies they employed like looking for "red flags" in potential partners, struggles with finding trustworthy childcare, and stockpiling money should they choose to end the relationship.

Conclusion: These rich data add new information about how mothers of very young children navigate difficult parenting and safety decisions in the context of lifetime traumatic events and provide insights relevant for practice and research with this highly-vulnerable group of IPV survivors.

Keywords: Child rearing; Intergenerational trauma; Intimate partner violence; Parenting; Qualitative analysis; Safety planning.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intimate Partner Violence / psychology*
  • Mother-Child Relations
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnant Women / psychology
  • Qualitative Research
  • Safety*
  • United States
  • Young Adult