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Taking the blame? : women's experiences of mothering in the context of domestic violence

By Simon Lapierre


This pro-feminist study aimed at developing an understanding of mothering in the context of domestic violence in contemporary Britain. Despite more than three decades of feminist activism and scholarship in'the field of domestic violence and a broad and detailed understanding of women's experiences of abuse by their intimate partners, little has been written on mothering in this context, particularly from women's experiences. Moreover, a critical evaluation of the literature in the field of domestic violence revealed a tendency to draw upon a deficit model of mothering and to blame abused women in regard to their mothering. This study was located within a research agenda that builds on women's experiences and efforts in order to overcome mother-blaming. It was based upon a qualitative and participa'tive methodology, and five group interviews and 20 individual interviews were carried out with a total of 26 women. It focused on women's experiences of mothering through domestic violence as well as during and after the separation process, and located these experiences within a comprehensive understanding of the institution of motherhood. The findings from this study extend the understanding of the difficulties involved in mothering in the context of domestic violence, which are due to the interaction between the particular context created by the violence and the ideologies and structures that underpin the institution of motherhood. Furthermore, the findings challenge a deficit model of mothering in the context of domestic violence, and demonstrate that women who have experienced domestic violence typically strive to be 'good' mothers and develop a range of strategies in their attempts to meet the standards that underpin the dominant social construction of 'good' mothering. The findings from this study also demonstrated that women are able to identify positive support, but their experiences more often tend to emphasise the failure of such support to materialise. These findings have major implications in terms of supporting women through their experiences of mothering in the context of domestic violence

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