This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Young Adults’ Perception of Fathering and the Father-Child Relationship in the Context of Marital Violence




Maddox, Lauren

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Human Development and Family Studies


The current study utilized a qualitative research design, combining grounded theory and thematic analysis, to examine fathering by maritally violent men from the perspective of their young adult children. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with twenty-three, female young adults from one Southeastern university to understand their perceptions of their maritally violent fathers along dimensions such as warmth and responsiveness, engagement and accessibility, and control and abuse. Additionally, we explored how factors such as marital violence dynamics (e.g., physical violence and coercive control) and characteristics of the father (e.g., substance abuse, biological versus nonbiological father) influenced the young adults’ perceptions of their fathers and the father-daughter relationship over time. Results suggest that maritally abusive fathers are highly volatile and low in warmth, although their engagement and use of control and abuse varied. Young adults exposed to the highest levels of coercive control reported having fathers who were more volatile, disengaged, and controlling and abusive in contrast to women exposed to the lowest levels of coercive control. Whereas, young adults exposed to no or low levels of coercive control were more likely to have engaged fathers in childhood and less likely to experience abuse or harsh punishments. Possible explanations for these findings are discussed with respect to previous research on fathering and the father-child relationship over time.