Methods: Due to limited guiding frameworks on relational health and IPV perpetration among men with histories of trauma, an exploratory mixed methods design was used. The Exploratory Sequential Design, Taxonomy Development Model prioritizes the application of qualitative data collection and analysis to identify quantitative variables and hypotheses to test. Semi-structured interviews (N = 11) and narrative analysis were conducted in Phase I with low-income men of color in a batterer intervention program (BIP). In Phase II, variables approximating the key themes that emerged in Phase I were selected from an existing dataset, and relationships articulated by the lived experience of Phase I participants were examined using bivariate associations. Phase II data were obtained through surveys completed by a sample of men in the same BIP, including all Phase I participants. Survey respondents (N = 67) were on average 35 years old, Black (76.1%), high school graduates (49.3%), employed (86.6%), and earning less than $20,000 annually (71.6%). The measures selected for Phase II were: Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Checklist, Structured Interview for Disorders of Extreme Stress, Health Status Survey Short Form Version 2, Lubben Social Network Scale, and the Revised Conflict Tactics Scale.
Results: The collective narrative of Phase I participants indicated that adverse life experiences shaped their world view via four mechanisms: mistrust in others, avoidance of expressing vulnerability, a sense of personal guilt and shame, and negative effects on mental health. These underlying mechanisms were then carried forward into adult relationships where men coped using social isolation to manage challenges, which negatively affected relationships with intimate partners. Significant bivariate associations supported this narrative. Certain ACEs (i.e., not feeling loved; physical abuse) were associated with smaller social networks in adulthood (r(59) = -.343, p = .008, r(60) = -.277, p = .032, respectively). Larger social networks were inversely associated with guilt/shame (r(57) = -.453, p < .001), mistrust of others (r(57) = -.352, p = .007), and positively associated with better overall mental health (r(57) =.284 p = .032). These indicators of poorer mental health and wellbeing in the past month were significantly associated with greater IPV frequency in the past year.
Conclusions and Implications: The application of this mixed methods design lays the foundation for future research to examine the potential moderating effects of social networks and other forms of relational health on the relation between ACEs and IPV perpetration among marginalized men. Though further research must be conducted, BIPs should consider augmenting programming to enhance men’s social networks with positive actors to support their use of non-violence post-program completion.