Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

36P Perceptions of Fathers Described by Adolescent-Mother Dyads Residing In Domestic Violence Shelters

Friday, January 13, 2012
Independence F - I (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Amy Chanmugam, PhD, MSW, Assistant Professor, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Little is known about the relationships children/youth exposed to intimate partner violence (IPV) have with their fathers (Edleson & Williams, 2007; Fosco, 2007; Holden & Barker, 2004). This knowledge gap impedes decision-making and development of empirically-based protocols by practitioners such as custody evaluators, mental health providers, and emergency shelter personnel. Research including perspectives of IPV-exposed adolescents is especially scarce. This qualitative study gained a comprehensive picture of experiences of IPV-exposed young adolescents (ages 12-14) using life story methods, including questions related to the focus of this poster: perceptions of fathers. METHODS: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a purposive, ethnically diverse sample of 14 youth-mother dyads residing in domestic violence shelters (N=27). Youth and mothers answered questions about the youth's relationship with the biological father. Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, and independently coded by two coders using holistic-content methods with a consensus procedure (Lieblich et al., 1998). Pattern identification, theme development and confirmation occurred using an iterative process (Miles & Huberman, 1994). RESULTS: Analysis yielded complex case profiles of perspectives on fathers along four dimensions: youth's perception of him as father, youth's perception of him as mother's partner, mother's perception of him as father, and mother's perception of him as partner. Five subgroup patterns were apparent across dyads based on the tenor of youth's expressed feelings towards father in his parenting role: Ambivalent (n = 5, 35.7%), Dislike/hatred (n = 3, 21.4%), Unknown/youth curious (n = 3, 21.4%), Closest relationship (n = 2, 14.3%), and Hurt/rejected/hopeless (n = 1, 7.1%). All three youth in the Dislike/hatred subgroup had been physically abused by their fathers (out of four youth in the sample reporting paternal physical abuse), thus expressing more clear-cut negative feelings than those who were exposed to IPV but not physically abused. The poster will include a table portraying subgroups, showing perspectives on the other three dimensions and illustrated by participant quotes. IMPLICATIONS: Findings provide rich qualitative data on perceptions of fathers. Further research on father-child relationships in this population is needed, for example to determine whether physical abuse is a stronger predictor of conflicted father-youth relationships than IPV exposure, a possibility suggested by findings in this small non-probability sample. For practitioners (e.g., mental health providers, domestic violence advocates, custody evaluators), results indicate the importance of recognizing the complex mix of feelings a youth may have about her/his father, and the need for careful assessment and lack of assumptions about the tenor of the youth-father relationship.