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Provider, Caretaker, Nurturer, Hero: Perceptions of Parenting Changes among Women Who Experienced Intimate Partner Violence


In this study, we examined changes in mothers’ reports of discipline, nurturing, and parenting satisfaction, along with their perceptions of how intimate partner violence (IPV) affected their role as a mother. Data were gathered from 85 women (86% identified as non-Hispanic White; mean age = 31.7 years; average number of children = 2.5) across three data waves. We used a convergent parallel mixed method design to examine women’s parenting experiences. Two standardized scales assessed parenting discipline, nurturance, and satisfaction. Five additional items assessed perceptions of how IPV influenced parenting. Women responded to open-ended questions about perceptions of their mothering role and how IPV influenced this role over time. We found significant changes in discipline scores and women’s ability to have their desired relationship with their children. Nurturing and parenting satisfaction scores did not significantly change over time. Four themes emerged for women’s role as mothers: provider and nurturer, teacher and discipliner, challenges, and importance of the mother role. Seven themes emerged on how IPV influenced mothering: ability to be present, trouble with discipline, overcompensation and overprotective, learned behavior, no impact, finding strength, and self-doubt. These findings contribute to the growing scholarship assessing women’s perceptions of their mothering roles and parenting in the context of IPV. Future research should examine the impact and nuances of parental interference in various contexts and over time.


  • We used a convergent parallel mixed method design to examine how IPV influenced women’s parenting over time.

  • Women reported high levels of nurturing and parenting satisfaction that did not significantly change over time.

  • Women placed a great deal of importance on their role as teachers and discipliners to buffer their children’s exposure to IPV.

  • Some women reported initial difficulties being present for their children due to the physical and mental effects of IPV.

  • Women reported significant increases in disciplinary competence and having a better relationship with their children.

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We would like to thank Shellie Mackel, Dennis Groenenboom, and the AmeriCorps workers at Iowa Legal Aid for their support and contributions to the project. We also thank the research assistants and interviewers, who devoted so much time and effort to the project. Most of all, we thank the women who participated in the project and shared their experiences. We hope this honors their voices.


This project was supported by Award No. 2010-WG-BX-0009, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.

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Correspondence to Lynette M. Renner.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

Ethical approval

Permission for the study was obtained from the University of Iowa Institutional Review Board (201105785). Before the first (Wave 1) interview, we obtained written informed consent from each woman who participated in the study. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Renner, L.M., Hartley, C.C. & Driessen, M.C. Provider, Caretaker, Nurturer, Hero: Perceptions of Parenting Changes among Women Who Experienced Intimate Partner Violence. J Child Fam Stud 30, 2191–2203 (2021).

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  • Intimate partner violence
  • Parenting
  • Parent-child relationship
  • Domestic violence