Updated: Apr 23, 2021
The connection between Intimate partner violence (IPV) and best interests of children following separation may not be intuitive.
It's reasonable to ask:
· How can children be impacted if their parents are no longer living in the same space?
· Why is the problem not functionally rectified by separation?
Here is part of the answer, although it is by no means complete.
IPV is abuse of one’s romantic partner, be it physical, verbal, emotional, psychological, sexual, or financial. It is useful to think of different types of abuse as a menu of tools.
When an individual gives themselves permission to harm another using one or more of these tools, their psychological health is in question.
The use of these tools is supported by a mindset and that mindset travels with the abuser across relationships. It is not isolated to just their intimate partner.
The mindset of an abuser is one of justification and a belief that others, including children are responsible for creating one’s problems and negative emotions. The “cure” is not in changing one’s reactions or own behaviour, but rather in doing what is necessary to change others, using whatever tool it takes.
The mindset of individuals who perpetrate IPV is the same mindset that informs their relationships in general.
Whether conscious or not, this mindset includes dysfunctional and inappropriate expectations of others, children being no exception. It is accompanied by a belief of superiority and with it, entitlement.
This mindset includes in varying degrees, the idea others don’t have the right to make you angry, to be rude, to say no, to disturb your sleep, to make noise or messes, to inconvenience you or to question your decisions, etc.. These experiences are inherent in parenting. Most days, it takes the mindset of a Zen master not to shatter the limits of a parent’s patience. This of course stands in stark contrast to the mindset of an abuser.
If IPV showed up in the intimate relationship, it is a concern for children. That is because one’s mindset forms the foundation of how we operate in the world.
The temptation to see IPV as “circumstantial” or a “one off” makes the connection to best interest of children difficult to see. The assumption that this behaviour does not or will not occur in other domains of the abuser's world, including parenting is not supported by the research.
IPV and parenting are inextricably linked.
Written by Glenda Lux M.A. R. Psych.