Dawn Bounds, Aretha Boakye-Donkor, Jen’nea Sumo, Michael Schoeny, Wrenetha Julion

First published online 2021 April 24

Abstract

Relationships among African American (AA) parents living apart can be contentious. A common assumption is that men are the perpetrators and women are the victims of violence. Research examining the symmetry of intimate partner violence (IPV) has not focused enough on AA parents who are co-parenting their young children while living apart. The purpose of this study is to explore reports of IPV among non-cohabiting AA co-parents of 2-6-year-old children enrolled in the Dedicated African American Dad Study (DAADS). Our objectives for this study are to characterize the nature of intimate partner relationships among non-co-residing co-parents by exploring the association between the quality of relationship and co-parenting fathers’ and mothers’ Hurt, Insult, Threaten, and Scream (HITS) scores. The HITS is a domestic violence screening tool for use in the community. As part of the screening protocol for study inclusion, we administered the HITS to father-mother dyads. Fathers were ineligible for participation if either parent reported HITS cut-off scores >10 and identified safety concerns for themselves when interacting with their co-parent. Among DAAD study parenting dyads, we noted symmetry in reports of IPV (i.e., both parents reported elevated HITS scores). The most frequently elevated HITS items were “insult or talk down to” and “scream or curse” indicating the preponderance of verbal conflict among parents in the study. The nature of IPV among co-parents in this study is predominantly verbal. In light of the potential for reciprocity in IPV, interventions for families in this context should focus on communication and problem solving to support fathers and mothers and minimize child harm.

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