Surviving together: domestic violence and mother-child relationships

Katz, Emma (2015) Surviving together: domestic violence and mother-child relationships. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis explores how mothers and children in the UK are affected by domestic violence, resist it, and actively support one another's recoveries. The focus extends beyond 'incidents' of physical violence, into the commonplace, the subtle and the everyday. This thesis shows that supportive mother-child relationships may enhance the well-being and recoveries of both mothers and children. It highlights the need to expand professional supports that repair and strengthen mother-child relationships.

The study is located on different theoretical ground from most research in the domestic violence field. Usually, within the field, mothers' parenting is seen as promoting or not promoting resilience in their (passive) children. Often, children supporting mothers is seen as inappropriate and indicative of children taking on 'adult roles' or being 'parentified'. There has been little attention to the ways that children, along with mothers, may be active in producing the strong, supportive mother-child relationships that promote resilience and well-being. By contrast, this study conceptualises children, along with mothers, as active contributors to mother-child relationships. Mutual supports between mothers and children are viewed as potentially positive and productive.

Thirty participants, 15 mothers and 15 children (aged 10-20) from the UK with experiences of domestic violence, were interviewed for this study. These interviews were conducted using a semi-structured, feminist-informed approach. Participants were recruited through organisations that support those with experiences of domestic violence, using a combination of purposive and snowball sampling. All participants were residing in the community, and the majority had never accessed refuge services. Ethical approval to conduct the study was granted by the University of Nottingham.

This thesis presents findings that show how children supported mothers, while mothers continued to parent and support their children. The children and mothers interviewed described supporting each other in multiple ways. During the domestic violence, helpful supports could occur even as mothers and children struggled to communicate about what was happening and suffered negative behavioural and mental health impacts. Some mother-child relationships were more strained than others during this period.

This study identifies five factors that influenced the extent of the damage caused to mother-child relationships during the domestic violence. These factors centred on the behaviours of perpetrators/fathers (their treatment of the children, the types of abuse they perpetrated, and the extent to which they undermined mother-child relationships) and the impacts of these behaviours on mothers and children.

In the post-separation violence phase, children and mothers were on the 'frontlines' of each other's recoveries. Often, they acted as 'recovery-promoters' for one another, especially when they had received professional supports that repaired and strengthened their relationships. Recovery-promotion frequently occurred in subtle, everyday, age-appropriate ways not usually considered in previous research, including the giving of compliments and praise and 'having fun' together. However, mothers and children also described exchanging some supports that may have been more problematic, and not all mothers and children were able to support one another to the same extent. Based on these findings, this thesis proposes a framework for identifying the different levels and contexts of supports exchanged by mothers and children, and their complex, varied impacts. This framework has utility for future research, policy and practice with domestic violence survivors.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Becker, S.
Morris, K.
Keywords: Domestic violence, domestic abuse, interpersonal violence, DV, DVA, IPV, child abuse, mothering, fathering, parenting, mother-child relationship, children, bilateral, social relations theory, child, agency, adversity, resilience, recovery, intervention, mental health, mental illness, well-being, sociology, family studies, childhood studies, social policy, social work, feminism, women's studies, qualitative, interview
Subjects: H Social sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Sociology and Social Policy
Item ID: 28456
Depositing User: Katz, Emma
Date Deposited: 23 Oct 2015 13:47
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2016 23:40

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