Parenthood is a life-changing event that requires preparation and understanding of a child's needs. Since parenting skills are often acquired and not instinctual (Lamb, 1986), it is important to understand the process of how men learn to become parents. Men are often taught not to be caregivers (Parke & Beitel, 1986), resulting in a lack of experience in the role of caregiver and making them feel less skilled and less confident in their ability to parent (Lamb, 1986). Furthermore, men who were exposed to domestic violence as children may learn to use violence to solve conflict, deal with stress, and maintain control over another person (Straus, Gelles, & Smith, 1990). This may lead to an increased risk for perpetration of violence against women and children (Black, Sussman, & Unger, 2010; Margolin, Gordis, Medina, & Oliver, 2003; Stith et al., 2000; Wareham, Boots, & Chavez, 2009).
A review of literature provides the empirical underpinnings on the risks of parenting stress and child exposure to domestic violence and the benefits of social support. Using social learning theory and ecological systems theory as a guide, a conceptual model was developed that provided a testable model of the relationship between parenting support's and parenting stress on the subsequent associated risks for family violence. A national study of fathers was conducted to test this model. Participants were asked about their history of exposure to domestic violence in childhood and the type, amount and use of parenting support. They also completed three standardized measures on parenting stress, child abuse potential, and propensity for abusiveness.
The results of the study affirmed the protective nature of social support in reducing parenting stress and risks for family violence. There were significant differences in parenting stress, child abuse potential, and propensity for abusiveness between fathers who reported exposure to domestic violence in childhood and those that did not report exposure. The results of the analysis indicate that social support--both access and use--has a relationship with parenting stress and potential and propensity for abuse. The access to and use of parenting support by men who were exposed to domestic violence did have a significant relationship on parenting stress and potential and propensity for abuse.
This research highlights the importance of assessing for and encouraging the use of parenting support in social work practice. Additionally, public policies need to be developed that actively encourage fathers beyond the focus on economic support. Finally, further research is needed to gain a better understanding of how exposure to domestic violence during childhood affects people throughout their lifespan.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. November 2012. Major: Social work. Advisor:Dr. Jeffrey L. Edleson. 1 computer file (PDF); appendices A-D.
Examining the relationship: fathers’ parenting support and parenting stress on family violence.
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