Young Adults Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence in Childhood: the Qualitative Meanings of this Experience

Adults exposed to intimate partner violence (IPV) in their childhood are often considered in studies to be a homogeneous group and are not questioned about the meanings that they give to IPV. This study focuses specifically on the 18–25 age group and seeks to answer the following questions: 1) How do young adults exposed to IPV explain what IPV meant to them? 2) In their opinion, which experiences in their life course contributed to construction of meanings?. Semi-structured interviews using an adaptation of the Life History Calendar were conducted with 35 young adults who were exposed to IPV in their childhood. Analysis was based on the Life Course Theory. Overall, the specific life courses of each young adult exposed to IPV helped us to better understand the nuances in the meanings they gave to IPV. The construction of these meanings relied on the context around IPV and on other trajectories constituting the life course (e.g., school, work, friendship). This construction seemed to rely on three processes: 1) an awareness process, 2) a process leading to greater trust in others, and 3) an empowerment process. These findings have generated new questions about the construction of these meanings and their impact on the consequences of IPV. Our findings could also lead practitioners to pay more attention to these meanings in order to better understand the reactions of individuals exposed to IPV.