Adolescent Family Violence Research in Australia, report launch

The Adolescent Family Violence Research team from Monash University are due to launch their research report in August, in Melbourne, Australia.

This Report presents the findings of a qualitative study examining adolescent family violence in Victoria. The study involved two phases – a survey with 120 persons experiencing adolescent family violence as well as focus groups and in-depth interviews with 45 experts, service providers, General Practitioners and health service providers.

Our findings explore gender, age and types of adolescent family violence; impacts and experiences of adolescent family violence, social structures and responses, the role of the criminal justice system and recommended future work in this area. While primarily Victorian focused, the findings are of relevance to all Australian jurisdictions and comparative countries.

The research brief can be read here, and further background can be found on the project webpage, including exciting news about the imminent establishment of an International Network Addressing Filial Violence, which meets for the first time in Prato, Italy this September. “The aim for this network is to bring together leading experts to undertake focused research on the commission of violence by children against their parents across the life course.” Dr Kate Fitz-Gibbon and Professor Rachel Condry will be leading on this.

The Context Report, Investigating Adolescent Family Violence: Background, Research and Directions, can be found here.

The research team published some of their early findings in a piece in the Conversation in July last year. This includes testimony from parents.

 

 

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Who’s in Charge? A much awaited book from Eddie Gallagher

 

Many of us have been waiting a long time for this book to appear. Whether you prefer to think about it as a bible or a brain is up to you, but the 500+ pages represent the outpouring of Eddie Gallagher’s understanding and thinking over nearly 25 years in the field of children’s violence and abuse towards parents, drawing on both available literature and his own significant practice experience, working with families individually and in developing the Who’s in Charge? model of work with parents.

Written primarily with parents in mind, the material is very practical; the style is conversational; chapters are broken down into clearly titled sections; and case studies, exercises and illustrations are scattered throughout. Following opening chapters which look at defining child to parent violence, and the profile of families affected, the reader is led first though some background understanding of parenting, parenting style, and parent blaming, before addressing our growing understanding of why children can act in this way, and offering practical steps that can be taken to bring about change. In each instance the subsections delve deeper, offer a counter argument, occasionally mock, and generally bring colour and the author’s distinctive voice to what might otherwise feel a rather daunting exercise. Eddie wants to break the taboo around this issue, to help parents understand that they are not alone, and to open up the conversation more widely.

The book is structured with chapters leading on from one another, and developing ideas further in subsequent sections. Eddie has a particular focus on personality types of children affected, as an outworking of his own practice. His experience has shown that this is an issue for many families where there is experience of domestic violence, or a parenting style that leaves children feeling entitled and inappropriately powerful in the home. Particular issues, such as girls who abuse their parents, warrant a separate chapter to themselves. The thorny question of reward and punishment, or ‘consequences’, is developed over a number of chapters. ‘Optional’ chapters at the end include a look at substance use, social media, mental health diagnoses, and the sometimes tricky or turbulent relationships with ex-partners. Eddie feels very strongly about some of these and you can sense his passion in the way he writes. You may feel that some of these may offer more understanding of the issues than actual responses.  I found the section on diagnoses particularly interesting. This is always a contentious issue, but also one that we need to seriously consider as practitioners and thinkers in this area of work or study, leaking as it does into the discussions on definition and intent.

Eddie urges realism about the prospects for the future, acknowledging that some families will continue to experience violence. At the same time, he offers advice to parents, which has proved useful and successful in restoring harmony over the quarter-century that he has been in practice.

Those familiar with Eddie’s work, through reading his website or through facilitating or attending groups, may recognise some of the material, but there is plenty more here to develop the themes and extend the discussion and learning.

What do I think?

  • This is a book to dip in and out of, whether as a parent or a professional – difficult to face in one sitting – although in doing so you may miss other linked ideas.
  • A mine of amazing resources for work with families experiencing this problem.
  • Some families, for instance those with adopted children, may feel that the material is less directly relevant to their family circumstances and parenting style.
  • Some slightly annoying editorial glitches, which I would hope might be addressed in future editions.
  • With so little information available for parents, this is an important and timely book, offering tried and tested understanding and responses.

Eddie Gallagher, 2018, Who’s in Charge? Why children abuse parents, and what you can do about it,    Austin Macauley Publishers, £17.99 (30% off at the moment!)

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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