Abstract: Maternal Well-Being, Coping, and Parenting Practices within Intimate Partner Violence: What Do We Know after Two Decades of Research? (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Maternal Well-Being, Coping, and Parenting Practices within Intimate Partner Violence: What Do We Know after Two Decades of Research?

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Liberty Ballroom N, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Cindy Sousa, PhD, MSW, MPH, Associate Professor, Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA
Manahil Siddiqi, BA, MPHc, Research Assistant, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Briana Bogue, MA, Doctoral student, Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA
Background:Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) affects almost 1 in 4 adult women and one in fifteen children. While we have long known the importance of parenting for child well-being, we have yet to bring together scholarship on the topic to construct working models about how IPV interacts with mothering.  For women to endure violence themselves while also attempting to physically and emotionally shield and nurture their children is a formidable task. In the context of IPV, maternal resilience is best understood as varied and regular attempts by mothers to maintain safety and well-being for themselves and their families, despite any assurance of victory or outcome. Literature demonstrates a varied set of responses by mothers within violent settings. By systematically bringing together and analyzing existing data on the topic, we may enhance our theoretical frameworks so these reflect the complex emotional and intellectual attention required for parenting within IPV, and the political and social contexts in which mothers facing violence act.

Methods: With the aim of integrating findings from over two decades of work on the topic, authors completed a systematic literature review to explore what existing literature demonstrates about how intimate partner violence influences parenting and how mothers navigate the caregiving role within IPV. This research aim was used to create criteria for inclusion (e.g., empirical, peer reviewed studies that examined the relationship of direct exposure to IPV on parenting). Multiple databases were then searched using this a pre-determined criteria. If there were questions about inclusion, two authors read the article and jointly resolved the issue. To determine the reliability between reviewers, a random sample of 50 titles and abstracts was drawn and reviewers independently decided which articles they would include; this test resulted in a 90% agreement rate.

271 records were retained after title/abstract screening, after removing duplicates. After full-text screening, 105 remained; 16 more were added via reference lists and authors’ databases, for a total of 121 articles. Authors organized and coded findings and determined common themes, and then built a conceptual model connecting the research documented through our analyses to both classical and critical, feminist theories related to parenting and well-being.

Results: IPV fundamentally influences maternal well-being (e.g., maternal mental health, identity, self-efficacy) and parenting practices (e.g., attachment, warmth, communication discipline). Mothers mobilize a variety of coping mechanisms, including emotional coping (nurturing hope and internal locus of control); action-based coping (telling abusers to leave the child alone, calling in authorities, creating escape plans, strategic compliance); and drawing on social support. Many of these coping strategies, in turn, promote well-being and positive parenting practices.

Conclusions: Our findings point to the multiple ways that mothers, struggle to realize the complex tasks of parenting within IPV. In so doing, this study contributes to the knowledge base around how women facing IPV plan for physical and psychological safety of themselves and their children. Findings point to the need for expanded theoretical frameworks, prevention practices, and policies that reflect both the suffering and the resilience of mothers who grapple with IPV.