MOVE is an innovative 13-week program serving court-entangled families that have experienced domestic violence. This guest post describes how parenting assessment is being used to document MOVE outcomes by a team at the University of North Carolina School of Social Work.
Guest Post by Natalie Ziemba
University of North Carolina School of Social Work
Impact of Intimate Partner Violence
Research has consistently shown that 1 in 4 women will experience intimate partner violence (IPV) over the course of their lifetimes, with some studies finding even higher rates of victimization. Abusive behaviors like physical aggression, emotional abuse, or financial dependence cause a range of negative outcomes that have implications far beyond injuries or health problems typically associated with IPV.
Children may experience similar negative outcomes when they grow up in violent homes. Whether by witnessing violence, hearing arguments, or sensing conflict between parents, children who are exposed to IPV are more likely to develop depression, behavior problems, and somatic complaints as they grow up, relative to children who are not IPV-exposed. Children and infants in violent homes also are at high risk of maltreatment, which may result in involvement with police, courts, or child protective services. Despite their victimization and need for services, many mothers who fight back against abusers in an effort to protect their families may find themselves entangled in the legal system.
Innovative Program Responds to IPV
Responding to these complex, interrelated problems is a challenging task requiring innovative approaches. In Wake County, North Carolina, the Mothers Overcoming Violence through Education and Empowerment (MOVE) program addresses the needs of mothers involved with courts or child protective services as a result of IPV. MOVE is a collaborative effort between two nonprofit agencies: InterAct of Wake County, which provides domestic violence services, and SAFEchild, which offers services for child abuse prevention.
MOVE is a 13-week intervention that offers two concurrent components: a group for mothers and a group for children. Children learn about staying safe, identifying and expressing emotions, and improving their communication skills. Mothers learn about the same topics, as well as the impact of IPV on children and how they might adapt their parenting practices to address the needs of their IPV-exposed children. As a new approach for mothers and children involved in either the courts or child protective services because of IPV, InterAct and SAFEchild were interested in a rigorous evaluation of the MOVE program.
MOVE Making a Difference: Promising Evaluation Findings
UNC at Chapel Hill School of Social Work researcher Rebecca Macy led a team of colleagues in a six-year study concerned with women and children who completed the MOVE program. This study is believed to be one of the first in the country to focus on IPV survivors who have become entangled in the courts or with child protective services because of violence in their families.
Primarily, the research team collected information through standardized questionnaires given to both the mothers and their children. These surveys helped researchers identify baseline needs and resources, as well as and track progress on measures like stress and coping, self-efficacy, and parenting practices.
However, these questionnaires relied on self-reported data from participants. Thus, the research team became interested in adding observational data collection approaches to the evaluation.
Collecting observational data benefited the program evaluation for several reasons. Young children communicate through their behavior and learn about relationships from their parents’ behavior. While older children can complete self-report questionnaires, observational data could more fully capture the changes in young children’s and mothers’ interactions over time. Further, observational data offers a source of information to compare with self-reported data, strengthening research results overall. So, the team decided to conduct video recordings of mothers interacting with their young children (5 years of age and under). Both the surveys and videos helped the team track the progress of program participants over time and conduct a thorough evaluation of the program.
How KIPS is Enhancing the Research
The KIPS observational parenting assessment proved to be a good fit for the MOVE outcomes and research questions our team investigated. Studying the context as well as the content of parent-child interactions is important for investigating how much parenting practices change over the course of the MOVE intervention. KIPS measures multiple dimensions of parent-child interactions and rates each dimension on a 5-point scale, allowing for a nuanced analysis of parenting practices before and after families participate in the MOVE program.
Evidence-based programs have a solid foundation for showing their effectiveness toward achieving program goals and creating change in the lives of program participants. Rigorous evaluation of MOVE will strengthen evidence of program outcomes and help women in the program reclaim their feelings of self-confidence, self-efficacy, and autonomy. Children exposed to IPV deserve the same positive outcomes. Reliable assessment of parenting practices is a crucially important aspect of IPV programs because positive parenting practices can help mitigate the negative outcomes related to IPV exposure among children.
Note: Funding for the MOVE program and evaluation was provided by The Duke Endowment. Funding for the MOVE program was provided by North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission. The UNC at Chapel Hill School of Social Work research team would also like to thank their community partners and families who participated in the program evaluation.
If you or someone you know is experiencing IPV, you can find help by contacting your local domestic violence agency or calling the national domestic violence hotline at 1-800-799-7233.