Children's views on contact with non-resident fathers in the context of domestic abuse
In recent years the issue of children’s contact with non-resident parents when there are allegations of domestic abuse has been increasingly debated. Some commentators argue that in circumstances of domestic abuse, contact with an abusive father may not be in the best interests of the child. To support these claims they point to evidence that domestic abuse adversely affects children (see Holt et al, 2008 for an overview), and domestic abuse often continues following separation (e.g. Stanley et al, 2011; Brownridge, 2006). There has been some academic work addressing the specific issue of children’s views and experiences of contact when there is domestic abuse. This has found that children often have contradictory feelings about their fathers (Holt, 2013; Thiara and Gill, 2012; Mullender et al, 2002; Peled, 1998) and they may struggle to accommodate the conflicting sides of their father (Peled, 1998). Holt (2013) and Mullender (2002) report that children’s desire to have contact was often linked to their analysis of their fathers’ behaviour – whether they were able to ‘change’ or not. Another important factor relates to what children perceive to be their fathers’ motivation for contact. Holt (2013) found that children who perceived contact to be a means to exert control, rather than maintain a relationship, were especially frustrated and apathetic about contact. She also found that the quality of the father-child relationship was most influential to children’s experience of contact.
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