The quality of parents’ romantic relationships may have an impact on their parenting as well as their children. This ARCH study examined the role of intimate partner violence (IPV) and power imbalances within adolescent parents’ relationships in parenting and child outcomes.
Researchers used survey data from 159 men and 182 women collected in the third trimester of pregnancy, at 6 months postpartum, and at 12 months postpartum. Participants were asked about their experiences of IPV, equity within their relationship, decision-making power within their relationship, their parenting sense of competence, and their infant’s temperament. The sample was predominantly African American (44%) and Hispanic (38%), while the rest of the sample was either White (14%) or some other race (4%). Men were an average age of 21.3 years and women were an average age of 18.8 years. Experiencing IPV from their partner was reported by 27% of men and 19% of women, while perpetrating IPV was reported by 5% of men and 12% of women.
Results indicated that having more equity within the relationship was associated with better infant temperament. However, experiencing intimate partner violence was associated with both poorer infant temperament and lower parenting sense of competence. Also, feeling that the other person had more decision-making power in the relationship (perceived partner power) was related to poorer infant social development and fine motor development.
No differences in these relationships were found across gender, perhaps indicating that the experience of violence or inequity for either the mother or father might have a negative effect on their children. Depression was also examined in this study and was found to influence the relationships between IPV and infant temperament, IPV and parenting sense of competence, and perceived partner power and infant social development.
These findings suggest that interventions to address violence, power, and equity as well as mental health within co-parenting, romantic relationships might have a positive effect on both children and their parents.