“I Did It to Save My Children”: Parenting Strengths and Fears of Women Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence


Intimate partner violence (IPV) is experienced by one in four women in the United States, and a wealth of quantitative research has underscored its detrimental effects on women’s mental health and parenting practices. Little research, however, has considered ways in which women exposed to IPV retain and foster parenting strengths and ways in which motherhood serves as a source of resilience for these women. The objective of the current study was to conduct a thematic analysis of IPV-exposed women’s parenting strengths and concerns as reported through focus groups conducted with IPV-exposed women (n = 22) and service providers (n = 31) in two urban areas in the Mid-West and Mid-South. Results of the thematic analysis indicated the emergence of three core themes: resilience and challenges of parenting in the context of IPV, leaving the violent partner, and intergenerational processes. Overall, service providers recognized far fewer strengths in parenting on all dimensions than did women, suggesting that service providers may be conceptualizing parenting in the context of IPV from a deficit model that underestimates the resilience demonstrated by these women. This has important consequences for the extent to which women may feel stigmatized or blamed when receiving resources and services critical to their families. Future research on parenting among women experiencing IPV would be enhanced by capturing the dynamic interplay between women’s parenting strengths and challenges, and the ways in which these capacities are affected by resource access within and across social ecological contexts.

Publication Title

Journal of Interpersonal Violence