Improving professionals' responses to mothers who become, or are at risk of becoming, separated from their children, in contexts of violence and abuse

  • Laura Michaela Monk

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Abusive men use a number of coercive and controlling tactics to undermine mothers’ roles, abuse women as mothers, and disrupt mother-child attachments. Consequently, some mothers become separated from their children via strategic coercive control. Despite academic and practitioner understanding of this problem for aeons it is not formally recognised in policy and service provision. Therefore, when women seek intervention from professionals and services, there is no formal pathway for prevention or support. There are profound and long-lasting effects for women who experience mother-children separation but little consideration is given to their needs and they are a marginalised population. This thesis investigates how to raise awareness of this type of abuse through DVA education to improve professionals’ responses to mothers whose relationships with their children have been targeted by coercive controllers. The investigation is achieved through planning, developing, piloting and evaluating a learning development workshop for professionals using an Intervention Mapping (IM) approach. Multiple research methods were used during four studies: two with mothers as part of a situational analysis, and two with practitioners through a training needs analysis and a workshop evaluation. The analyses show how using systems theory, which underpins IM, drew attention to the systemic nature of mother-child separation strategies where the manipulation of professionals was seen as fundamental to strategic mother-blaming. Notably, analysis highlights the arbitrariness of prevention and support for mothers when workers’ responses may have related more to personal factors than professional judgement. The application of IM to the problem resulted in a workshop with a novel focus for DVA education by centralising the roles of systems/practitioners in mother- child separation strategies. Significantly, using IM in the planning, development and evaluation enabled training that transcends traditional awareness-raising methods through reflective, reflexive pedagogy, which influenced practice and had real-world impact.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorErica Bowen (Supervisor), Sarah Brown (Supervisor) & Emma Sleath (Supervisor)

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