CPV, who needs a definition?

For as long as I have been working and thinking in this field, people have been talking about the problem that there is no official, agreed definition of child to parent violence (or whatever we are going to call it.) There are many and varied reasons why people have thought that having a definition might be quite a good idea. Essentially these are to do with naming it as ‘a thing’, with parents recognising what they experience as abusive, with services being better able to respond, with the possibility of counting something if we name and define it, with the hope of developing policy and practice responses at strategic level.

There were some raised eyebrows then at the recent N8PRP conference on Improving Policing Research and Practice on Child to Parent Violence and Abuse, when it was suggested not once, but twice, that a definition might be more trouble than it was worth and we could do without one altogether! Stick with me, and you can then decide for yourself whether the arguments made sense.

First of all, why do we want a definition? I refer you to my earlier paragraph here, but also there was a lot of discussion on the day about the way that different services conceptualise CPV, which then goes on to drive the particular response of that agency. If, or as, different agencies have different mandates and policy frameworks, this can help explain why it can sometimes be difficult to have conversations across services. Similarly, when people are doing research into the issue, they either start by choosing a definition, or even writing their own, to reflect what they want to study. Would an official definition help with this, or would people still remain within their own conceptualisation and paradigm?

If I haven’t lost you yet, it gets a bit more straightforward soon!

I have been working in this area for a relatively short time – since 2005, and yet the knowledge and understanding has grown – and changed – significantly in that time. One of the problems of a fast moving world, it was argued, is that the definitions we have been using have been continually updated as new insights are learned. So, definitions of child to parent violence have expanded and evolved over time to include fathers as well as mothers, younger ages of children, different types of abuse, and more comprehensive impacts on the family. One obvious example is that the Home Office guidance document, published in 2015, refers to Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse, rather than also including younger ages. If we fix on a definition now, we may well be rewriting it in a year’s time as new information comes to light. This is, of course, not the only area of work to which this argument could apply.

Secondly, and following on, it was argued that by using a particular definition we risk closing off the response to some groups. So, for instance, if we adopt a particular age limit in a definition it might make it difficult for parents of younger children to access help early on. (Arguably this issue of closing off help to particular groups happens at the moment any way because of where help is sometimes sited. Back to the conceptualisation argument here?)

Rather than adopting a limiting definition, it was suggested that we should look at risk and harm, and work in response to those. (If it feels abusive to someone, then it is, perhaps.)

Hannah Bows, who has done some impressive research into the abuse of older people, both within  and without the family, proposed that it would make more sense to understand the issue within a life course narrative. This is not actually a new problem she argues, but the extension of an existing problem, and it makes more sense then to share understanding across the field, as we see how abuse of parents from younger children can extend into adulthood, and then on to old age. She argues that it is not age that is the defining factor in distinguishing aspects of domestic abuse, but other variables that need to be considered. Following this argument, we would adopt one single definition for abuse within the family right across the life-course. Child to parent violence would then be a ‘subset’ of this. (This is something I would like to return to at another time. Or if anyone else would like to write something they would be very welcome!)

Plenty to think about there then – so, pick your jaws up off the floor, unscramble your brains, and let me know what you think!

1 Comment

Filed under Discussion

Kinship Care Survey

Grandparents Plus would like your help with their Kinship Care State of the Nation Survey.

 

If you are involved in kinship care in the UK, whether recently or for the long haul, please do take ten minutes to complete the survey which you can find here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Research

An evening with Eddie Gallagher

Eddie will be visiting London on 20th September and there is an opportunity to meet with him to talk about child to parent violence and the Who’s in Charge? programme, which he developed many years ago in Australia. Eddie will also have copies of his book, Who’s In Charge? Why children abuse parents and what you can do about it, which is to be published at the end of this month.

The evening is designed for Trained WIC? facilitators, commissioners, managers, and practitioners wanting to know more about CPV and the WIC? programme.

Booking is essential for this event. Please see the Events and Training page of this website for more information.

Leave a comment

Filed under Announcements, Training opportunities

Child to parent violence: An uninvited guest

An email to the RTE Radio 1 show, read out by Ryan Tubridy on 30th April, expressed a mother’s despair and sense of helplessness over her 9-year-old son’s behaviour towards her: “I wonder if it’s possible to admit that you can’t help your child … It’s extremely difficult to talk to people about it…  You feel like you have failed your child… like it’s your fault, you’ve done something to create this.” Despite assessments, medication, therapy, courses, and other support, the violence towards her continues and she feels as if there is nothing left she can do. Reading the transcript from the show, it is easy to share the sense of helplessness. Where do you turn when all the traditional methods have led nowhere?

The email prompted a call to the show from Madeleine Connelly, senior social worker and family therapist. She highlighted the importance of parents feeling able to say they have come to the end of the road – without then being subject to shaming and judgemental responses. Talking about the abuse; ‘pressing the pause button’ – choosing to respond to a crisis at a later moment; and finding a support network, were then described by her as powerful steps to take as reported by the parents themselves. Finally, she stressed the importance of separating the behaviour from the child, with an expression much used in the practice of Non-Violent Resistance – the child is not the problem – the problem is the problem. “What we do is encourage parents to see the behaviour as an uninvited guest or an infection, that it’s not the child, it’s a behaviour, to separate it out.  The problem is the problem, it’s not the child, and that helps parents to look at different ways of seeing the problem and then working together with the child.”

Working together with the child to overcome the issues – since we should not assume the child is happy with the situation – and offering hope in an apparently hopeless situation, two strong messages to take away!

Leave a comment

Filed under radio and video

Who’s in Charge? at BASPCAN 2018

I am very excited to hear that Carole Williams and Nicola McConnell are presenting a free paper at BASPCAN 2018 this week in Warwick. If you’re attending then don’t miss this opportunity to hear more about the Who’s in Charge? programme and to support the team! Their paper is titled “Preventing child to parent violence: An evaluation of the ‘Who’s in Charge?’ intervention for parents within the UK” and is part of the Violence in the Family thread on Tuesday 10th April (11.00 – 12.30) in OC 0.04. Nicola has analysed the programme data from 2012 – 2016 and has some good findings and evidence that the programme is making a difference, particularly when parents are helped early on. I hope to be able to post more information about this soon.

Further details about the Who’s in Charge? programme can also be found on the updated website.

Leave a comment

Filed under Announcements

#CPV PhD gives a voice to young people.

I am pleased to share the synopsis of a recently completed PhD in the area of child to parent violence, sent to me by Dr Alexandra Papamichail, who has been studying at Brighton University.

My qualitative study explored a form of family violence, namely, child-to-parent violence. The aim was to fill a gap in the literature by giving voice to young people whose voices have been marginalised, as well as to professionals who work with them in the UK. I focused on familial relationships and contexts within which young people are embedded, their psychological states and how these are linked with violent behaviour. The work drew on theories of attachment, developmental trauma and family-systems and emerged from a practitioner-researcher perspective within the disciplinary area of developmental psychology and psychopathology.

I conducted participant-observation and interviews with eight young people from two different intervention programmes aiming to tackle violence against parents. In addition, I conducted semi-structured interviews with five professionals. All data were analysed from a critical realist perspective using inductive, thematic analysis.

A detailed account of the findings will be presented soon in a paper currently in preparation (Papamichail, 2018). The commonalities with developmental trauma are underlined; similarly, the commonalities with the characteristics of “borderline personality disorder (BPS)”1 are addressed for the first time in the UK (Papamichail, 2018). My study fills the gap of psychologically informed research in the UK as well as the gap of the literature regarding young people’s perspectives. It problematises the current practice in the field and suggests a new synthesis informed by tailored interventions, attachment and trauma theory, upon which evidence-based interventions may be based.

1 In alignment with the guidelines of the Division of Clinical Psychology of the British Psychological Society (2015) regarding the language used in relation to functional psychiatric diagnoses, I have chosen to demonstrate my scepticism toward the usefulness of terms such as “borderline personality disorder” by placing them in parentheses (British Psychological Society 2015, p. 3).

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Research

Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse: HM Government Consultation

The UK Government is consulting on proposed changes to the law on domestic abuse. The consultation runs from March 8th to May 31st, 2018, and you can access the consultation documents, published by the Home Office here. As well as the full version, a shorter document can also be viewed. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Discussion, Policy