Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 345–355 | Cite as

Young people’s Constructions of their Experiences of Parental Domestic Violence: A Discursive Analysis’

  • Catherine M. NaughtonEmail author
  • Aisling T. O’Donnell
  • Orla T. Muldoon
Original Article


This exploratory and formative study draws from discursive psychology to gain insights into how young people construct their experiences of parental domestic violence and abuse (DVA) and how they claim to understand the occurrence of DVA within their home. Data from interviews with 13 young people (18–26 years old) who reported DVA in their families of origin were analyzed using a discursive psychological approach. Analysis revealed two interrelated themes. Theme 1, ‘“How it was”: constructions of DVA’ identified that the young people had difficulty in recognizing psychological aspects of this phenomenon as DVA. However, as these behaviors also deviated from the normative expectations of intra-parental behaviors, the occurrence of psychological DVA led to ambiguity and confusion. Paradoxically, the occurrence of extreme physical DVA was readily recognized as DVA, and this worked to facilitate disclosure, discussion, and help-seeking. Theme 2, ‘Barriers and facilitators to talking with mothers about DVA’, identified how young people’s reported perceptions of their mother’s role in DVA were related to the likelihood that they had conversations about DVA with their mothers. The occurrence of extreme physical DVA, which unambiguously placed responsibility for the DVA with the perpetrator, who in the cases presented here were male, was reported to enable conversations around DVA between the young people and their mothers. Findings suggest a need to adapt discourses to make understandings of the psychological aspect of DVA more accessible to young people, so they can name and make sense of their experiences.


Child exposure to domestic violence Young people Discursive psychology Construction Domestic violence and abuse Physical violence Psychological abuse 



This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine M. Naughton
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Aisling T. O’Donnell
    • 2
    • 3
  • Orla T. Muldoon
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.School of LawUniversity of LimerickLimerickIreland
  2. 2.Centre for Social Issues ResearchUniversity of LimerickLimerickIreland
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversity of LimerickLimerickIreland

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