Violence against Grandparents: Finding out more 

I am very pleased to post this information and request from Dr Amanda Holt, who has been instrumental in bringing about wider knowledge and understanding of child (and adolescent) to parent violence. She is now about to begin some research into violence and abuse towards grandparents, from their grandchildren, and is interested to hear from practitioners, and ultimately grandparents, with awareness and experience of this. You can also find a job advertisement for the role of Postdoctoral Research Associate for this project, on the Student page of this website. 

As Helen impressively documents, there is a useful research literature developing on adolescent-to-parent violence/abuse, and this is giving us some insights into who, where, how and perhaps why we are seeing this problem across a range of families. However, there is very little research into violence against grandparents, yet I am hearing from practitioners that many grandparents attend CPV support programmes because they are experiencing violence from their grandchild. Many of these grandparents are involved in kinship care arrangements with their grandchild(ren), whether arranged formally (e.g. through a Special Guardianship Order, for example) or informally. A recent survey of 101 kinship carers in Australia found that nearly half (46%) of carers (the majority of whom were grandparents) reported violent behaviour from the child they were caring for and which, in 89% of cases, was directed towards them. As with CPV, verbal abuse, psychological abuse and physical aggression were all reported and the impacts mirrored those commonly experienced by parents who experience violence from their children: stress, mental health problems, physical health problems, additional family conflicts and social isolation.

However, while there are of course many parallels with CPV, there are other important issues which require consideration. For example, the kinship care relationship may have been unexpected, and grandparents may have complicated feelings about their own caring role. Relationships with the grandchild’s parents may be strained, and the same Australian study cited above found that many of the carers were also coping with violence towards them from the child’s parent(s). The kinship care context often means further structural challenges: we know from research that kinship care households are more likely to experience poverty, and that the child is twice as likely to be experiencing a long-term health problem or disability. The disruptive family context also needs to be taken into account: the most common reasons for the placement are parental mental health problems and/or substance misuse, parental incarceration, child protection concerns (including domestic violence) and parental illness or death. Given this context, supporting the grandparent must also mean supporting the child (and indeed the whole family), both of whom may require support in processing some of these very difficult, and potentially traumatising, sets of circumstances.

Practitioners who are running very effective support groups for CPV have told me that they are concerned that they may not always be responding to grandparents in the best way. What support needs do grandparents have, in addition to the support needs of parents who attend the CPV sessions? How do grandparents feel about coming to the groups? Do they feel alienated from the other parents, given their own special circumstances? And how do grandchildren feel about attending? There may be additional work to do in processing identity roles (“Am I his Mother or his Grandmother?”) and in working through their own complicated feelings towards the child’s parent(s). Perhaps there are ‘generational norms’ that shape how grandparents perceive ‘parenting advice’ that might exacerbate feelings of alienation.

I want to find out more about this issue. This is not only to develop the scholarship in this much marginalised form of family violence, but also to help practitioners to develop best practice for working with this group. I have been funded by the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust to interview grandparents who are (or who have been in the past) experiencing abusive and/or violent  behaviour from their grandchildren. The research project has been approved by the University Ethics Panel and is being overseen by an expert advisory board. I would really like to hear from practitioners who work with any grandparents (even if they just work with one) and who may be willing to share information about this project with the grandparent. I have produced some information flyers that can be distributed to potential grandparent participants that tells them more about the project. Interviews would be face-to-face or over the phone, and at a time to suit the grandparent, and we offer grandparents a £20 shop voucher as a thankyou for their time. Please contact me for any further information, or if you would like to discuss the project.

Contact Amanda by email at her University of Roehampton address.


Leave a comment

Filed under Research, Uncategorized

Collaboration across agencies is key in work with families experiencing child to parent violence

Great to see a blog from Dr Simon Retford, Detective Superintendent at Greater Manchester Police, on the  N8 Policing Research Partnership website (September 13th). Simon spoke at the recent N8 Knowledge Exchange Conference in Darlington, and he reflects here on the content of his presentation.

Police Collaboration Opportunities and Child to Parent Violence 

In June 2018 the N8PRP held its annual Knowledge Exchange conference. The theme for this year was child-to-parent violence (CPV), its complexities, recognition as an issue and prevention. 

In this blog-post Dr Simon Retford, Detective Superintendent at Greater Manchester Police, gives us an insight into CPV through research undertaken to complete his Professional Doctorate and extensive policing experience. 

Within the confines of family violence, domestic abuse has become a widely recognised problem across all sections of society. As a greater understanding of the complexities of such abuse has evolved, so has the responding and support opportunities grown, to better support those involved (Hester, Pearson & Harwin, 2009, pp.110-111). However, one particular area which has avoided extensive academic research, is abuse perpetrated by children against their parents (Jackson, 2003, p.321,). Gaps between parent abuse and domestic abuse research have been reported, particularly where responses to it are concerned, with a suggested ‘policy silence’ for parent abuse (Holt and Retford, 2013, p.2).

You can read the whole blog here.

Leave a comment

Filed under conference report, Discussion, Research

International FASD Awareness

September 9th was International FASD Awareness Day. Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, the most common non-genetic cause of learning disability in the UK, is thought to affect 2% of the UK and US populations, though some people claim that is a huge under-estimate, with up to 5% affected. Within certain communities – care experienced children – it is significantly higher, with perhaps a third of adoptive children receiving a diagnosis. That is a challenge in itself, with only relatively recent wider recognition of this disorder, above and beyond the facial characteristics which only show on a small proportion of children affected.

FASD is an umbrella term for people who have neurological difficulties resulting from exposure to alcohol in the womb. It impacts on growth, memory and learning, behaviour issues such as anxiety, and physical problems with hearing and sight. The fact that it is entirely preventable is a keystone of the campaigning groups in this country and elsewhere; with a great deal of frustration about responses to government advice to reduce or eliminate drinking in pregnancy.

Parents report an array of challenges at home, including issues around behaviour; and many children will struggle at school. Dr Raja Mukherjee, Britain’s leading FASD expert, working at the National Clinic for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, warns that, without appropriate support, 90% of children go on to experience mental health problems as adults, and many end up homeless or in prison. To mark International FASD Awareness Day, Adoption UK released a report, commissioned by the Scottish Government, which looks at the challenges associated with diagnosing FASD and offers recommendations for how health, social care and education authorities across the UK can better tackle the condition among care experienced children.

For more information about FASD, link to support groups and organisations. Within the UK groups such as NOFAS-UK and FASD Network UK provide information, support and training, or follow Dr Mukherjee on twitter for a range of links and discussions.

Leave a comment

Filed under Discussion

Adolescent family violence: Good news from Victoria!

I have written in the past about work taking place in the state of Victoria, Australia, both in terms of research and government policy. You can read about the work the Adolescent Family Violence Research team here, and the 2016 Royal Commission on Family Violence here. (Although set up specifically by the Victorian government, there was a hope that relevant measures might be adopted more fully by the federal government.)

It was very encouraging last week to see the press release from the Victorian government concerning the announcement of $1.35 million over 2 years to strengthen work addressing the reduction of adolescent violence in the home. This will go towards programmes across three sites, which seek to access help for young people in areas of their lives impacting on the use of violence; in strengthening family communication and relationships; and crucially, intervening early to offer help before violence is entrenched and serious. The funding announcement has been welcomed by groups such as that in Geelong, which runs the Step-Up, Building Healthy Relationships programme, and which last year offered support to 96 families.

Where governments understand the issues there is real hope for funding and change. Sadly, this is not the case everywhere, and continuous budget cuts (for instance in the UK) not only slow down the development of support services, but also risk decimating what early help there is. 


Filed under news reports

Child to parent violence and abuse: new thinking and approaches

The field of child to parent violence and abuse is a rapidly changing one, as new learning and understanding emerges to challenge our way of thinking and service delivery. This makes it an exciting field in which to be working – but also requires us to be on the ball with new research and training opportunities. This last year has seen important work from Dr Hannah Bows into parricide and eldercide; and more findings from a survey of parents by Dr Wendy Thorley and Al Coates, including a challenge to the definition currently in use. Have we got it wrong when we draw distinctions between children, young people and adults in the use of violence towards parents? Should we be using different approaches where children have a diagnosis of ASD or ADHD? Is this a different thing all together, or are there huge overlaps within the community of young people using violence and abuse in the home? Should we be representing this with a giant Venn diagram?


If those sorts of questions interest you, then join us at the Respect Young People’s Service National Event in Gateshead, on September 26th, from 10.30 to 4pm. Dame Vera Baird DBE QC will be chairing the morning session, and there will be presentations from Rosie Creer of Respond, and Dr. Hannah Bows. Workshops will give a flavour of different approaches to working with families, including the Who’s in Charge? programme, Break4Change, work with young people on the autistic spectrum, what we can learn from MARACs and IDVAs, setting up a local authority embedded programme, and Dr Wendy Thorley discussing the findings of her research.

Full details of the event, including more information about each session, venue, costs and booking can be found here.

Respect Young People’s Services Event focuses on pioneering work with young people who use violence, abuse and challenging behaviour particularly within the family. This participative event will engage you in new thinking and approaches to complement your work. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Announcements

Filial violence across the life course

It was great to see a new international network, aiming to connect academic research on all forms of violence against parents, launched last week by Dr Kate Fitz-Gibbon in Australia. The International Network Addressing Filial Violence “will underpin ground-breaking, systematic and collaborative research into all forms of child to parent violence: childhood violence against parents, adolescent family violence, parricide at all ages, and elder abuse.” Members include Dr Kate Fitz-Gibbon, Associate Professor Rachel Condry, Professor JaneMaree Maher, Dr Caroline Miles, Professor Heather Douglas, Professor Kathleen Heide, Dr Eldra Solomon, Dr Wendy O’Brien, Associate Professor Esther Calvete and Dr Karla Elliott.

This remains a little researched subject, with new understanding constantly emerging, and so this collaborative direction of travel is very exciting.

You will find more information about each member, and about their publications, on the Monash University website.

Leave a comment

Filed under Announcements, Research

Reports from the 2018 CPVA Survey

You may have been following the discussion opened up by Dr Wendy Thorley and Al Coates, following their survey of adoptive and foster families at the end of 2016 (here,  here, here and here), and then the enlarged questionnaire to all families experiencing violence and aggression from their children of 2018. If so, you will already be aware of the way in which the responses brought to the fore a number of difficulties with the way in which CPVA is understood and conceptualised; particularly around intent, and children who have either a recognised mental health diagnosis, learning difficulty, or have experienced trauma in early childhood. Two documents are now available, comprising a full and detailed analysis of the recent survey responses, and an extended summary of the main discussion points and recommendations. The first is available through Amazon, the second as a free download from Academia. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Book review