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Child witnesses of intimate partner violence: Identifying the roles they have and understanding the situations in which they are present

Witnessing intimate partner violence (IPV) can have serious psychological, behavioural, cognitive, and somatic impacts on children and yet they continue to be present in over half of all New Zealand Police call outs for IPV. This exploratory research consisted of two studies using archival data. Study 1 was a qualitative exploration of the roles that children have when they witness IPV. Using thematic analysis, 100 police reports were examined to identify the key themes in the data, and then typologies of roles were developed from the identified themes. Results showed that there were three key roles of children during IPV: protector, pawn, or collateral damage. Study 2 was a quantitative analysis of 356 episodes of IPV again involving police calls for service—178 where children were present and 178 episodes with no children present. Descriptive analysis of the child-present group showed that in nearly half of all episodes, the role of the child was not known due to lack of information in the police report. Binary logistic regression comparing the child-present and non-child-present samples across a series of relevant variables showed that aggressor gender, the presence of physical harm and episode location were significantly predictive of the presence of children. Given the limited information regarding the presence of children, further qualitative research is needed in order to understand the experiences of children, as well as gain the perspectives of aggressors, victims and also frontline police workers attending IPV events.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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