Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) Holding Complexity: A Strengths-Based Approach to Parenting and the Intergenerational Transmission of Violence (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

737P (see Poster Gallery) Holding Complexity: A Strengths-Based Approach to Parenting and the Intergenerational Transmission of Violence

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Johanna Barry, PhD, Assistant Professor of Social Work, Augsburg University, Minneapolis, MN
Julia Pryce, PhD, Associate Professor, Loyola University, Chicago, Chicago, IL
Background: This study explored how parenting capacity is impacted for survivors of IPV who also witnessed IPV during childhood. While not all children become perpetrators or victims of IPV following childhood exposure, research suggests that violence can be “transmitted” from parent to child. Within clinical settings, there is a tendency to unfairly judge parents, and particularly mothers, for entering abusive partnerships and subjecting their children to what they also suffered in childhood. This oppressive view of violence and trauma perpetuates stereotypes and unfair treatment of IPV survivors and precludes an understanding of what parenting looks like within IPV partnerships and what meaning the act of parenting holds. Using a feminist theory framework, this research explores the role of inter-generational transmission of violence, and what parenting means to survivors. We aim to give voice to survivors’ complex stories and illuminate new ways of offering support to a nuanced problem.

Methodology: Despite well-documented challenges to recruitment in this population, a robust and diverse sample of 16 female-identified was recruited. Participation criteria required that women had been previously a part of an IPV relationship, were exposed to IPV during childhood, and had at least one child. Of the sample, 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 generated via an iterative, multi-stage, 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 could be categorized along two different dimensions: 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, while operational capacity included examples of parents providing for children’s more material needs. Each theme was distilled into a total of four sub-themes, which also included attendant subcategories further illustrating the findings. For example, “Parenting is a conscious remedial response” emerged as one of the sub-themes under relational capacity, and explores why participants consciously chose to become parents as an ultimately corrective experience. Every participant reported actively wanting children, as well as a desire to engage in parenting, at least in part to counteract the trauma they experienced during childhood.

Conclusion/Implications: Results supported previous research that highlighted the enhanced ability trauma survivors have to connect with others emotionally: fostering close attachments is a strategy for survival. Study participants likewise demonstrated an increased ability to relationally connect with children, which has positive implications for children’s growth and development. In addition, participants reported actively wanting to become parents after witnessing violence during childhood, which may suggest they are even better equipped from a relational standpoint to parent. This study highlights the strengths IPV survivors demonstrate and encourages a strengths-based approach when supporting survivors to disrupt the intergenerational transmission of violence.