This is the first study to longitudinally examine the mental health and well-being impacts on survivors when their abusive partners and ex-partners use their children as an abuse tactic against them.
The sample included two hundred seventy-seven homeless or unstably housed survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV). All were mothers of minor children. Participants were interviewed shortly after seeking services and again at 6-months, 12-months, 18-months, and 24-months. They were asked about abuse they had experienced in the past six months, including the ways children were used as a form of IPV. They were also asked about their current depression, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms, as well as quality of life.
Many of the participants reported their abusive partners and ex-partners had used their children as a form of IPV to control or hurt them. Further, after controlling for other forms of abuse, use of the children significantly predicted increased anxiety, PTSD symptoms, and quality of life (but not depression) over time.
It is important to recognize the widespread use of children as a common and injurious form of IPV, and its impact on the mental health and well-being of survivors.