From Risk to Resilience: Adult Survivors of Childhood Violence Talk About Their Experiences
The main focus of research into family violence has been around the ideas of intergenerational transmission of learned behaviours. We know a good deal about what constitutes risk for children, the outcomes of that risk and the processes that work to translate difficult childhoods into difficult adulthoods - for some children. We also all know children who seem to have 'weathered' the most appalling childhoods and to have emerged strong and resilient and who do not repeat the patterns of relating they experienced as children in their adult lives. It is this group that is the focus of the study. A purposively selected sample of eight, seven women and one man, with a range of backgrounds, was interviewed in depth using qualitative research methods informed by feminist standpoint theory. All of the eight had identified as having experienced significant violence as children, mainly in their families of origin. They also stated that they did not currently relate to their partners or children in violent ways, nor were they the victims of violent relationships. They consequently fell into the category of those who have "broken the cycle" of intergenerational abuse. Each person identified the things that helped them through their experiences and their reflections were then examined in more detail in the context of other studies on resilience. The interviews yielded an interesting array of findings which were consistent with literature which identifies certain attributes of the person and of their environment as protective. Findings are discussed with a view to their relevance to social work practice and policy. The list of protective factors may serve as an 'inventory' of potential resources for those working in the field of family violence. This study supports earlier work which challenges the idea of the inevitability of the intergenerational transmission of abuse, working instead from a paradigm which suggests that there are a multiplicity of 'resilience factors,' both integral to the individual and environmental, which interact in complex ways to enable many people to survive abuse and to relate in healthy ways in their adult lives.