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.