Young Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence Describe their Abused Parent: A Qualitative Study

Journal of Family Violence
Karin Pernebo, Kjerstin Almqvist

Abstract

The negative impact of intimate partner violence (IPV) begins early in the child's relationship with a caregiver. Children's relationships with, and internal working models of, abused parents have rarely been documented. The aim of this study was to collect and interpret young children's accounts of their abused parent. Interviews were conducted with 17 children aged 4 to 12 years who had witnessed IPV. Thematic analysis identified three main themes and seven sub-themes: "Coherent accounts of the parent" (sub-themes of "general benevolence", "provision of support, protection, and nurture", and "parental distress"); "Deficient accounts of the parent" ("vague accounts" and "disorganized narrations"); and "The parent as a trauma trigger" ("avoidance" and "breakthrough of intrusive memories and thoughts"). The results indicate these children may hold integrated, deficient, or blocked internal representations of an abused parent, and they illustrate the benefit of including young children as informants in research.

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