Exploring mothers' experiences of separating from an abusive partner
Robins, K. (2010). Exploring mothers’ experiences of separating from an abusive partner (Thesis, Master of Applied Psychology (MAppPsy)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5048
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5048
This research explored mothers' experiences of separating from an abusive partner. It focuses on the contextual factors which support or undermine women's ability to keep their children safe. Of particular interest was the extent to which dominant ideas about the importance of fathers in children's lives played a role in decision making about abusers' post-separation contact with their children. Eight women who had separated from an abusive male partner were interviewed. Their experiences, thoughts and views are presented in case-studies. Each begins with a background of the woman's relationship with her former partner, the processes that led her to initiate separation and her post-separation experiences. Separating from an abusive partner was found to present many challenges for mothers. Often, the women reported that they continued to be abused and to be subjected to the power and control tactics of their abuser. Women's accounts of their partner‟s behaviour suggested that the abusers' characteristics as a partner spilled over into their parenting. The abusers were generally reported to be inconsistent, authoritarian and/or irresponsible in their parenting. In this context, the women held significant fears for the safety and well-being of their children should the abuser have contact with them. Despite this, the majority of the women agreed to contact. Indeed, most of the mothers felt responsible for maintaining the father-child relationship and went to great lengths to facilitate contact, even though the contact often exposed both mother and child to further abuse. To this extent, dominant, uncritical beliefs about the importance of fathers seemed to be quite influential. On the other hand, those women who had good family support were less likely to agree to unsafe contact. These participants' mothers were particularly important in recognising the dynamics and impact of the abuse. They played an important role in protecting the participants and their children, and prioritised safety over contact. These women experienced shorter periods of post-separation abuse. Women with support were less isolated, less likely to blame themselves and were able to begin the process of recovery earlier. Consequently, the welfare of their children was improved. This finding suggests that support of this kind may be one avenue that improves women's ability to keep their children safe and enhance their experiences after separating from an abusive a partner.
University of Waikato
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