Updating the APVA Guidance Document

Five years ago, after many months of creative debate and editing, we launched the Home Office guidance document on Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse (APVA). It was part of the government’s commitment through the VAWG strategy, but also fulfilled a need identified at the launch of the findings of the Oxford research project into APVA.

The last five years have seen new developments in understanding, with more awareness of the wider age range affected; with growing appreciation of the difficulties experienced by families with children who are neuro-diverse; with more research into CPV within adoptive families; and sadly the disappearance of some projects and programmes while others have come on line. There is more literature available than before: significantly more research papers, but also a growing library of books. There has been a certain degree of disappointment that the government’s interest has not really developed beyond the publication in that time, but the Domestic Abuse Bill (and accompanying consultation response), which we must hope will make it through eventually, specifically gives a commitment to:

… draw together best practice and develop training and resources to improve the response to victims of adolescent to parent violence.


… promote and embed existing Home Office guidance and general principles in addition to working with experts to develop service-specific guidance.

So, last week a group of us met with members of the Home Office to begin the process of updating and redrafting the guidance. With an amazing amount of both expertise and commitment in the room, we have to remain optimistic about where this will end up! We looked at where positive things have happened, and where there is still significant room for change; what can happen quickly; what the priorities might be; and where we anticipate the blocks. The need was agreed for a document that is both concise and clear, and for specific guidance to be developed further within each sector, with debate around how it is used at present, and how greater engagement with it might be achieved.

The previous document took many months to produce. I have no expectations that this updating will take any less time – and indeed it is right that the review should be thorough. So, don’t expect any news in the near future, but do watch this space!

I would be interested to hear from others what experience they have had in using the current guidance document:

  • Was it easy to find? How did you come across it?
  • Why did you access it?
  • Was it relevant to your situation?
  • What changes would you make?


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“Powerful but dangerous”: telling stories about #CPV

Telling real human stories helps communicate hard, complicated issues to the wider public through the media, but anyone doing so should think carefully about what they are prepared to say and what the consequences might be, writes Karyn McCluskey.

I have written something similar to this in the past, but it always bears repeating … Think carefully before you put yourself and your family forward as a “case study”. Given that I myself put put shouts from time to time for people willing to speak to the press, I grant that this could be construed as hypocritical. I do believe that it is important for people to hear what it is really like to experience child to parent violence, and that without the personal stories it will take much longer for the reality of this tragedy to permeate the general consciousness. I know too that parents have heard another person speak about the help they have received, and it has been the starting point for their own journey back. But I also understand how damaging, and even dangerous,  it might be if you say things you later regret, or your child finds out you have mentioned them, or your family is recognised in some way. And that’s before you start reading the comments from people after the piece is published. Some journalists are happy for interviewees to remain anonymous. Others want to use names and faces, but even the former is not without potential difficulties.


So it seemed particularly ironic to me that I put out the most recent request for anyone willing to be interviewed, the same day I saw this piece in the Scotsman from Karyn McCluskey. What Karyn says is important for families to think about, and also a warning to those of us who make the requests.

  • What do you hope to add by using a personal story?
  • How much detail is really needed?
  • What does consent mean when someone is very vulnerable?

Please do read the whole piece. It’s certainly worth thinking about more!


(January 30th.) There has been so much interest in the original article and discussion on twitter, that I thought it worth adding some more thoughts.

Firstly: How much do we truly value the input of people in this situation?  Parents, families, individuals are often asked to contribute their experience at conferences or other events, but for no fee, perhaps just expenses. If we really value the input of those with lived experience, and we want to make use of their expertise (for our ends) then we need to be demonstrating this value in a more appropriate and honest way! A proper fee at the very least. Or how can individuals be brought on board as paid up members of our organisation? (Thank you June for raising this.)

Secondly, The_battered_parent makes an important point about the hopefully transient nature of this. Young people can and do change and that is what we are working to bring about: I hide behind this name to speak about #CPV. My experience needs to be heard yet we as a family need to heal, reunite & move forward. I don’t want people to know my son for the bad choices made in his teen years. He’ll be an adult soon & will need to find a job…

Thanks again. Keep those comments coming!



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CPV, Home to School and Back Again

This is the second in a recent series of guest posts. Nikki Rutter writes about the overlap between violence and abuse from children in education settings, and in the home. Nikki is an ESRC-funded Doctoral Researcher at the department of Sociology at Durham University. Her research interests include: Child-to-parent violence, domestic abuse, violence against women and girls, grounded theory. She is a member of Durham University’s Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse (CRiVA), and Communities and Social Justice Research Group at Durham University. You can contact Nikki on twitter. See more details of her work on the CPV Research Directory.


Child to parent violence is often viewed as a pattern of behaviour that exists solely within the home; however, there are examples whereby children who are violent within the home are also violent in other environments. In my own research – into pre-adolescent CPV – parents often talk about their relationship with school, and how interactions with school can directly relate or influences their child’s violence:

  • School can be a trigger for anxiety related aggression from the child;
  • Phone calls from school can cause anxiety within the caregiver, and friction within the home;
  • Issues within school can cause a Coke bottle effect which spills over into the home environment;
  • One in four teachers experience violence from pupils each week.

Children with social, emotional, and mental health needs are more likely to display violent and aggressive behaviours. Children with these needs are more likely to be excluded from school; which can also increase incidents of violence within the home. The Conservative manifesto outlined that the education department would give Head Teachers more powers to discipline pupils, by making exclusions easier, and there will be an increase in funding to expand alternative provision, for those children who are excluded. One in four teachers are assaulted by pupils each week, so it is important that schools are a safe place for all. However, excluding these pupils is a reactive response to a complex issue and could result in an increase in incidents of violence, for those already experiencing CPV.

Whilst there are many individuals, and organisations who are working to support those families living with, and managing CPV, there is very little policy guidance for those with pre-adolescent children. Educators are expected to manage complex behaviours reactively; which can just result in children who are already struggling with managing these huge emotions within their tiny bodies; these children are excluded from school and made to feel rejected are then being sent home.

Everyone says the children don’t come with a manual, they don’t. We still, however, expect families to instinctively know how to support tiny children with giant, overwhelming emotions. Families do not exist in a vacuum, nor do schools. To support these children to develop strategies that are more helpful, or healthy than violence we need to be supporting families, as well as supporting schools, to support the child.

CPV needs to be less about who is accountable, or responsible for the child; it is not about laying the blame at anyone’s door. CPV responses should be a multiagency, multidisciplinary collaboration in promoting and developing healthy strategies within the child, so they can manage their emotions proactively, and feel secure with their environment. We cannot do this alone.


These are important issues, particularly the need to understand and respond to CPV within a multi-disciplinary framework.

Many thanks to Nikki for her contribution.

If anyone else would like to write a guest post, please do contact me!






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A message of hope for 2020, Break4Change in Rochdale

When I sent out an invitation in November for people to write something for me, I never expected to receive such interesting contributions!  I’m thrilled to be able to start a new year with the first of these contributions from Emily Nickson-Williams, who I have been following on twitter after seeing some very positive comments about the work her team were engaged in around child to parent violence. Emily is the lead for the ‘Relationships Revolution’ at Rochdale Council.  She has worked in Children’s Services for the last 17 years and has pioneered a number of initiatives for vulnerable families.  Her work has been described as ‘inspirational’ and her more recent efforts developing work around the relationships agenda, including responses to child to parent violence and abuse, led to her receiving the Innovation Award in 2017. Emily brings us a letter from a parent who has attended one of the Break4Change programmes running as part of this work.

I think that for me this open letter is a message of hope.  Hope for other families who may be too afraid to come forward to speak to someone because of the fear of consequences from Children’s Services and the Police.  The message we would like to give families living in Rochdale is this… Continue reading


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Compassion and responsibility

On Monday night the BBC aired Responsible Child, a drama, based on a true story, directed by Nick Holt. The programme had been heavily trailed, and so it is not offering too many spoilers to say that twelve year old Ray, the main character, is involved in the murder of his stepfather, and the story follows his trial in the adult court in the context of his early life. Children’s services and education do not come out of it particularly well. Rather the compassionate responses are those of the legal team and a particular member of staff at the secure unit where Ray finally ends up Continue reading

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Where are the posters on the back of toilet doors?

A few weeks ago someone tweeted a photo of a poster in a toilet cubicle advertising domestic abuse services (in this case in Australia), and it reminded me of a plea which had been made at a conference I attended, that we should make it easier for individuals to find out about the help available to them if they are being abused by their children …

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The Challenge for Social Workers – Take Action on Child to Parent Violence & Abuse

I’m pleased to bring you this recent post by Declan Coogan, first published on the Irish Social Work blog.

Irish Social Work

12th November 2019

In different parts of Ireland, parents/ carers are living in fear of a son or daughter who lives with them and who is under the age of 18 years of age.

Parents are feeling powerless

As a social worker, psychotherapist and researcher, I have heard parents describe their feelings of walking on eggshells around their child and of living in fear of the next explosive outburst leading to threats and acts of harm and/ or violence against parents who feel powerless and alone. Social workers and other health and social care practitioners in voluntary and statutory services talk about the feelings we face when parents and carers tell us about living in fear of their child under the age of 18 years old. We are faced with difficult dilemmas: how can we resist the impulse towards a quick and easy solution that probably will not work…

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