Coercive Control and Situational Couple Violence : Exploring a Differential Approach to Domestic and Family Violence in Child Protection Practice

PhD Thesis


Marwitz, U.. (2024). Coercive Control and Situational Couple Violence : Exploring a Differential Approach to Domestic and Family Violence in Child Protection Practice [PhD Thesis]. Australian Catholic University School of Health Sciences https://doi.org/10.26199/acu.9062x
AuthorsMarwitz, U.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy
Abstract

Domestic and family violence (DFV) is a prominent social issue and is known to cause harm to children and young people. DFV is common in families with statutory child protection involvement, both because it directly causes harm and risk to children, and because it tends to co-occur with other factors such as parental substance abuse, child abuse and neglect. DFV is complex and some researchers have argued that there are two different types, one which is characterised by the perpetrator’s use of coercion and control (coercive control), and another which is characterised by violence that occurs in the context of conflict or other situational factors (situational couple violence). Although DFV is a common issue for families with child protection involvement, my literature review found that there is a lack of research that differentiates between coercive control and situational couple violence in the child protection context. Therefore, in this thesis I have explored whether differentiating between coercive control and situational couple violence may be beneficial for child protection practice with families where DFV has harmed or poses a risk to children.
To explore the research question, I have used a child focus while incorporating aspects of DFV theory involving adults. The thesis comprises three studies. For the first study I undertook a two-part critical discourse analysis of DFV specific child protection practice guides from five Australian states and territories. In the first part of the analysis, I explored how each practice guide defined and discussed DFV, and what kinds of responses and approaches the guide recommended. In particular, I focused on whether the guide defined DFV in a way that was inclusive of both coercive control and situational couple violence, or whether the definition was limited to one particular type of DFV. I also explored whether the recommendations/practice directions each guide gave would be appropriate for coercive control, or situational couple violence, or both. In the second part of the analysis, I considered how the definitions, discussions and recommendations in the guides compared to the relevant literature.
For the second study I interviewed six Australian child protection practitioners in order to explore their perspective on the nature and characteristics of DFV in families in the child protection caseload. To do this I developed four fictional case vignettes. I used key literature on the differences between situational couple violence and coercive control to inform these vignettes: two vignettes were characterised by indicators of situational couple violence and two were characterised by indicators of coercive control. I then undertook semi-structured interviews with the participants and asked them whether the families in the vignettes were similar to families they see in their practice, and what interventions they might use with each family.
For the third study I conducted a case-file analysis using ‘intake reports’, that is, a document generated when a notification is made to the ‘Child Abuse Report Line’, from the South Australian Department for Child Protection (DCP). The DCP provided access to 100 intake reports that had been screened in for a response due to them meeting the threshold for the risk ground ‘Domestic and Family Violence’ to be identified. In my analysis I identified any aspects of each report that may have indicated either coercive control or situational couple violence. I also explored the relationship between coercive control and situational couple violence with other factors that could be determined from the intake reports, such as whether there were concerns about substance use, or co-occurring child abuse or neglect.
The three studies I conducted for this thesis indicated that the practice guidance currently provided to Australian child protection practitioners is primarily based on an assumption that all DFV is characterised by coercive control and does not allow for practice responses that would be appropriate for situational couple violence. In contrast, both the practitioner interviews and case-file analysis suggested that DFV in families with child protection involvement is complex and includes both coercive control and situational couple violence. This indicates that the approach currently used by most Australian child protection departments may not meet the needs of all children and families impacted by DFV and that further research in this area is needed.

KeywordsChild protection; domestic violence; coercive control; situational couple violence
Year2024
PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26199/acu.9062x
Research or scholarlyResearch
Page range1-349
Final version
License
File Access Level
Open
Supplementary Files (Layperson Summary)
License
All rights reserved
File Access Level
Controlled
Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Print29 Apr 2024
Publication process dates
Accepted09 Apr 2024
Deposited29 Apr 2024
Additional information

This work © 2023, Ulrike Marwitz.

Permalink -

https://acuresearchbank.acu.edu.au/item/9062x/coercive-control-and-situational-couple-violence-exploring-a-differential-approach-to-domestic-and-family-violence-in-child-protection-practice

Download files


Final version

Restricted files

Supplementary Files (Layperson Summary)

  • 22
    total views
  • 12
    total downloads
  • 20
    views this month
  • 8
    downloads this month
These values are for the period from 19th October 2020, when this repository was created.

Export as

Related outputs

“Kids are in the middle of it” – Child protection practitioners reflect on indicators of coercive control and situational couple violence
Marwitz, U., Higgins, Daryl John and Whelan, Thomas Anthony. (2024). “Kids are in the middle of it” – Child protection practitioners reflect on indicators of coercive control and situational couple violence. Children and Youth Services Review. 160, pp. 1-10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2024.107596