Objectives: The welfare of children exposed to intimate partner violence (IPV) has been identified as an area needing further investigation to improve our knowledge base and services. This study sought to interpret experiences of adults who were exposed as children to IPV to explore factors of resilience identified; knowledge which may be used to inform practice.
Methods: Using a Grounded Theory (GT) approach, 12 participants were interviewed about their experiences of being exposed to IPV in childhood. Interview questions elicited perceptions of how these experiences affected participant's: childhood/adolescence; family/peer relationships; parenting attitudes; and community contexts. Interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed thematically by three independent coders, who documented their decision-making processes.
Results: Analysis identified five distinct themes which identify resilience as residing within individual, familial, contextual and environmental factors from a social ecological perspective: (1) escapism; (2) insight and self-efficacy; (3) perseverance and hope; (4) desire not to repeat the cycle of abuse; and (5) positive caregiving, social support and community. Specific areas to foster resilience with vulnerable children include: increasing self-efficacy; connecting to positive adults; increasing community/social support; labeling/validating feelings about violence and educating about healthy relationships.
Conclusion and Implications: This study contributes to a knowledge base of resilience factors and processes that may characterize the trajectory of children exposed to IPV, and may also help inform resilience focused programming. Adult narratives of resilience lend support to social ecological conceptual models for how resilience can be fostered and how the inter-generational transmission of violence may be interrupted.