Methodology: Despite well-documented challenges to recruitment in this population, a robust and diverse sample of 16 female-identified were recruited. Participation criteria required that women had been previously a part of an IPV relationship, defined as physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and/or financial abuse, and that they have at least one child. Of the sample accrued, women represented a range of ages, racio-ethnic backgrounds, and socioeconomic strata. Interviews began with a storyboarding activity in which participants wrote, drew, or otherwise visually expressed parts of their experiences with IPV and parenting. Semi-structured, in-person interviews were conducted and lasted between 60 and 180 minutes at locations chosen by the participants. Data were analyzed via iterative, thematic analysis by the principal investigator as well as two members of the qualitative research team using NVivo-12 software.
Results: Analysis revealed that parenting capacity as described by participants could be categorized within two major themes: relational capacity and operational capacity. Relational capacity is defined as participants’ ability to connect emotionally with their children and provide an emotionally close, nurturing relationship. Operational capacity involves participants attending to the more tangible, logistical aspects of parenting, such as attending to children’s basic needs. Together, the two dimensions comprise the Dual-Part Model of Parenting. While some participants expressed limited operational capacity due to financial strain resulting from IPV relationships, they often described enhanced relational capacity. Each dimension was distilled further into a total of four sub-themes, which included subcategories to further illustrate the findings.
Conclusion/Implications: By viewing parenting capacity using the Dual-Part Model, we can acknowledge that parenting in contexts of IPV is nuanced and complex. Through this model, we give survivors the space to demonstrate in context aspects of parenting in which they excel, as opposed to solely focusing on what parts of parenting need to be “fixed,” making assumptions about survivors’ parenting skills because of their circumstances. Rather, survivors demonstrate strength in their commitment to their children and adapting to traumatic circumstances to protect children. Using this model allows for the strengths of the survivors to influence discourse, treatment, and policy.