Intimate partner violence involving children and the parenting role : Black mothers’ perspectives of social support and the well-being of their children

Gojer, Sarah Rebecca
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Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a pervasive public health problem that disproportionately affects marginalized women of color and poses an intergenerational burden when it occurs in mothers. Children of mother survivors of IPV are at increased risk for experiencing a variety of mental health problems. Few studies have explored how mothers experience IPV that directly involves their children or their parenting (IPV-CP), and little is known about the mental health outcomes of children of mothers experiencing IPV-CP. Although social support protects against the harmful effect of IPV on mental health outcomes, little is known about the social support experiences of mother survivors of IPV-CP. The purpose of this qualitative study was to contribute to the limited research on IPV-CP by exploring the unique IPV-CP experiences of Black mothers, their perceptions of the mental well-being of their children, and the quality of their social support as a potential mitigating factor. A secondary thematic analysis was conducted on 25 interviews from nine Black mothers. Participants completed interviews at three time points (baseline, 1 months, and 3 months). Participants described IPV-CP experiences such as their partners 1) undermining mothers’ parenting, 2) taking away their children, 3) punishing mothers by harming children, 4) committing IPV in front of the children, 5) committing physical IPV targeting both mothers and children, 6) using children to manipulate mothers, and 7) preventing mothers from caring for their children. Mothers described their children as having a combination of mental illness and engaging in risky and problematic behaviors, such as substance use. Mothers generally described ways in which they lacked adequate social support. Participants discussed social support resources such as instrumental, emotional, belonging, and informational support. Mothers discussed institutional supports, such as community resources and services, healthcare, housing, and social welfare. Mothers described a variety of barriers to receiving help from institutional support systems, highlighting the role of structural racism on the negative social support experiences of Black mothers experiencing IPV-CP. Findings are intended to inform the design of a conceptual framework to test in future quantitative studies.