Exploring Men with Children’s Experiences of the Process of Intimate Partner Abuse from a Female Partner
This research explored how men with children experienced the process of unilateral aggression from their female intimate partners. The current study was part of a broader research project investigating men and women’s experiences of perpetration and/or victimisation of intimate partner abuse (IPA) in Aotearoa New Zealand. Semi-structured interviews with 13 fathers who reported experiencing unilateral IPA were analysed using Braun and Clarke’s (2006) approach to thematic analysis. Four overarching themes about men’s experiences of the process of IPA were subsequently identified. The first theme described the emotional pull experienced in the early stages of the relationship, consisting of two subthemes: 1) the honeymoon period, and 2) invested in the relationship. The second theme identified how men became stuck in their abusive relationships, containing five subthemes about: 1) the changing nature and severity of abuse 2) rationalising the aggression, 3) problem-solving, 4) the cycle of appeasement, and 5) gendered responses to aggression. The third theme described the negative impacts of the abuse, with two subthemes detailing: 1) the negative impacts on men, and 2) spillover effects on children. The fourth theme detailed men’s experiences of breaking free and moving on from abuse, which consisted of four subthemes: 1) drawing a line, 2) post-separation abuse, 3) loves continuing pull, and 4) putting the pieces together. These findings add to a growing body of qualitative literature about men’s experiences of IPA, highlighting the emergence and escalation of aggression, the maintenance and discontinuation of abusive relationships, and the difficulties men encounter post-separation. The importance of education about the nature of IPA and the development of policies and practices that help men overcome barriers to leaving abusive relationships are discussed. Future research is needed to examine the process of IPA for men experiencing bidirectional aggression and the recovery process for men post-separation.