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Interventions with fathers

Understanding violence as a parenting choice

Fathers who are controlling and violent towards their partner may adopt certain parenting styles that place children at risk. When assessing risk to a child, it is essential to assess his parenting practices and not just his violence towards the mother.

Even if he stops using violence towards his partner, his parenting practices may still hurt the children.

It is also important not to separate his violence from his parenting — domestic violence is a parenting choice. It is not possible to be ‘a good dad’ when perpetrating domestic violence.


Refer to the resource below to learn more about interventions with fathers:

Resource—Invisible practices: Intervention with fathers who use violence


‘Well, when we moved up to live with him, like there was a lot of rules. I couldn’t play out in the garden … I don’t really know why there was a lot of rules, and if we were sporting [having fun playing] he’d go angry. There’d be fights a lot of the time, but other days he’d be nice and all, but he kinda changed a lot of the time.’
Hazel, 10- years- old, remembers in 'Listening to children: Children’s stories of domestic violence (2007)'

Practice tool: Not valuing children wheel

This tool assists us to understand perpetrators’ patterns of behaviour and the impacts on the children, the non-offending parent and the functioning of the family. 

(Adapted from Power and Control Wheel—Not Valuing Children (created by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, Duluth, MN, by Dr Katreena Scott, Caring Dads, Lead program developer). For an electronic copy, visit Not valuing children).

Common parenting styles in violent men

His parenting style Examples
  • expecting to be obeyed
  • intolerant of children’s behaviour or needs
  • unwilling to accept feedback, advice or criticism from family members
  • setting unrealistic and unfair rules
Disinterest, neglect and irresponsibility
  • unaffectionate
  • taking no responsibility when it comes to caring for a child’s needs
  • paying no or little attention to the child
Unrealistic expectations
  • expecting behaviour that does not match up with the child’s age or stage of development (such as getting angry at a toddler who spills food or a baby who cries)
  • expecting a child not to be upset by verbal abuse or when they see or hear an assault
Sabotaging the mother
  • insulting, degrading and ridiculing a mother in relation to her role as a mother. (He may do this in front of the child.)
  • overruling a mother’s decisions about her child, saying a child cannot do something when their mother has said they can.
  • being unwilling to change his lifestyle to match up with his child’s needs
  • being insensitive to a child’s feelings and experiences
  • having no emotional boundaries when it comes to the children
  • making theatrical displays of his own distress
  • taking personal credit for the successes of his children and blaming their mother if the child fails
  • confusing the child or alienating them from their mother by blaming her for everything
  • making a child lose trust in their mother or their mother’s ability to care for them
Performing under scrutiny
  • being gentle and caring in public or during supervised visits
  • being attentive and apologetic when she threatens to leave the relationship.

Bancroft & Silverman, 2011

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