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How violence hurts fathers

A father's violence has negative impacts for him too

It is important to talk to fathers about how their choice to use violence can have negative impacts on their lives too, and to motivate them to be willing to get help and to change.

Fathers who use violence often see it as being beneficial to meeting their own needs, such as when they get their way through intimidation or abusive acts. But these ‘benefits’ often only last for a short time.

Exploring the negative impacts a father’s violence has on his life can motivate him to change. This is particularly useful if he finds it difficult to empathise with the experiences of his partner or children and as such, is not motivated by empathy to change his behaviour.

Spence Coffey (2009) describes some important ways a man’s use of violence can impact on him, including:

  • loss of trust from his partner
  • loss of trust from partner
  • loss of intimacy
  • loss of respect
  • loss of self-respect
  • fear of getting caught
  • possible arrest and jail time if police are called
  • possible loss of job and friends
  • possible loss of partner and children

How much do the children motivate him?

A father’s motivation to change for the sake of the child’s safety and wellbeing may vary depending on his relationship with the child. If a father has not had a relationship with the child for long, or if he does not have a strong bond with the child, his motivation to change for the sake of the child may be limited.

Attempt to find out what the father holds most important and use this to guide your conversations with him. Is it his need for respect? Is he worried about what others will think of him?

Practice prompt

Consider: is the father a new addition to the household or someone with little attachment to the children? Even if he doesn’t see himself in a parenting role, talk to him about the impact of his behaviour towards the mother and the impact this has on overall family functioning and his role as a co-parent.

Research tells us new partners can place children at higher risk.

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