Statement of purpose Understand the parenting needs of women with young children who sought services to end intimate partner violence (IPV) at two different co-located service settings – shelter and community walk-in centre.
Methods/approach Cross-sectional, self-administered survey of English and Spanish-speaking women with children younger than 11 years old. Survey included validated instruments and researcher/community partner-developed questions on mother/child demographics, parenting difficulties, child health and healthcare needs, and violence-related exposures. Data collected at four one-week intervals in fall 2013.
Results Participants were 48 mothers aged 33.5 ± 6.2 years representing 91 children (57% boys, age 7 years ± 3) children; half lived in the shelter. We found few differences by service location. Most mothers were Hispanic (60%), placed themselves in the lower half of a social ladder (72%), lived with violence >1 year (68%), and changed residences >2 times in the past year (41%). 50% reported symptoms of depression and high levels of parenting stress compared to the general population (p < 0.001). Mothers reported that children witnessed IPV-related police action (55%) or parent arrest (23%,) and continued to spend time with perpetrator (28%). 26% of children had special health care needs compared to 19% of the general population (p = 0.1) while 33% had behavioural difficulties compared to 10% of the general population (p = 0.1). 22% had a current need for medical and 42% for behavioural health appointments.
Conclusions Women experiencing IPV living in a shelter or in the community are a high-risk population with unmet parenting needs reporting high parenting stress and children with medical and emotional problems. Some children remain at risk for exposure to violence.
Significance and contributions These adverse factors may negatively affect parenting and child well-being possibly slowing the transition to a violence free life. Both settings provide an opportunity to identify and refer mother and children for needed health services.
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