Growing up in domestic violence: What does maternal protectiveness mean?

Fiona Buchanan, Sarah Wendt, Nicole Moulding

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    19 Citations (Scopus)


    There is limited understanding at the current time about the nature of relationships between women and their children in contexts of domestic violence. This is particularly the case in relation to maternal protectiveness, which tends to be seen in simplistic terms of whether women stay in violence or leave to protect their children. This article reports on a qualitative research study that explores mother–child relationships in the context of domestic violence. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 14 women and two men who were raised in contexts of domestic violence. Thematic analysis revealed complexities between the former children’s perceptions of their own needs and their mothers’ vulnerabilities in the context of violence, as well as shifting understandings over time that involved development of deeper insights into the impact of violence on their mothers and themselves. The nuances of maternal protectiveness identified through this analysis can help social workers appreciate the multiple factors that impact on children’s relationships with their mothers in contexts of violence. The findings therefore have practice implications for social work with women who mother in domestic violence as well as children and adults who grow up in these environments.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)399-415
    Number of pages17
    JournalQualitative Social Work
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2015


    • Children
    • domestic violence
    • feminism
    • mothering
    • social work practice
    • thematic analysis


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