Abstract: Intergenerational Contexts of Violence: Experiences of Intimate Partner Violence and Parenting Among Young, Maltreated Mothers (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Intergenerational Contexts of Violence: Experiences of Intimate Partner Violence and Parenting Among Young, Maltreated Mothers

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Ahwatukee A, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Elizabeth Aparicio, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland at College Park, College Park, MD
Swati Sah, PhD Student, University of Maryland at College Park
Jennifer Robinson, MPH, PhD Student, University of Maryland at College Park, MD
Katelyn Reynolds, Undergraduate Student, University of Maryland at College Park
Alexis Hunter, PhD Student, University of Maryland at College Park
Michelle Jasczynski, MEd, PhD Candidate, University of Maryland at College Park, MD
Chloe Bernardi, MSW, LCSW-C, CEO and President, Hearts and Homes for Youth, Burtonsville, MD
Gary Jones, PhD, Assistant Program Director, Hearts and Homes for Youth, MD
Background and Purpose: Adolescence and early adulthood is a time of increased risk of intimate partner violence (IPV). One in 12 teens experience violence at the hands of a partner, and IPV risk peaks among women in their mid to late 20’s. Young mothers with a child maltreatment history and other childhood traumas are at increased risk for IPV compared to young women without children and without such trauma histories. Young, maltreated mothers both express many challenges and speak with great joy and hope in the promise of new beginnings in this next chapter of their lives when asked about experiences of becoming and being a mother. They have a deep desire to do things differently with their own children than what they experienced in their families of origin. Parenting young children in the context of IPV is incredibly difficult, yet little is known specifically about how young, maltreated mothers manage these challenges.

Methods: To address this gap in the literature, our team conducted in-depth semi-structured interviews with four mothers aged 20-22 who had experienced childhood maltreatment and, later, intimate partner violence. All the mothers had one child and had been in foster care, with between 3-30 placements. Three mothers were living in an independent living placement and one had her own apartment. All mothers were Black. They were 13-16 years old at first sex and two participants had a history of miscarriage or abortion. All participants selected a pseudonym. We transcribed the audio files verbatim, then used interpretative phenomenological analysis to examine how the mothers experienced parenting young children in the context of IPV.

Results: Interpretative phenomenological analysis resulted in a rich depiction of how mothers are navigating complex circumstances and relationships to work to protect themselves and their children from abusive partners. Justice system interventions included use of protective/peace orders, though these were limited to once IPV had already escalated into physical violence. Mothers shared the complications of being in the position of needing to rely on the family members of their abusive partners, particularly their partners’ mothers. As Rose shared, “I be cautious of that ‘cause, again, I don’t wanna...get myself [or my daughter] in danger because I’m trying to fix something with [my baby’s father]. So, I just...go ahead about my life. The only support I do have is [my baby’s father’s mother] right now. ... I think I could have better support with my family...especially my mom. I think she should be the biggest support on my team. But she has her own stuff going on... I have to be, like, you know, be my own support sometimes.”

Conclusions and Implications: As young parents transition from the foster care system, intervening to protect them against further violence is of paramount importance. Promising strategies include building a robust social support structure and ensuring mothers are able to secure housing, food, education, childcare, and emotional support without being reliant on the assistance of their abusive partners or their family members.