More than two-thirds of separated mothers who had suffered domestic abuse said they worried about ongoing contact between their children and the absent father when interviewed for a study by a Trinity College Dublin academic.

They said they worried about the children's continuing exposure to the verbal abuse and denigration of the mother when contact was being arranged and at hand-over points and during contact.

The study's author, Dr Stephanie Holt, said it is critical to find ways to ensure that abusive men acknowledge and address the continued presence of domestic abuse and that they are held accountable for it.

The findings prompted Dr Holt to question whether contact with fathers should automatically be considered to be in such children's best interests.

She says the challenge is to promote contact in a way which delivers benefits to children while not jeopardising their safety or well-being. 

The research also highlights a lack of support services for abusive men struggling to realise their fathering aspirations.

The research involved 219 mothers completing questionnaires about their 449 children and face-to-face interviews with 61 children, separated mothers and fathers and legal, health and social care professionals.