At the beginning of June, Parenting NI released figures showing a dramatic increase of 27% in the calls received by their helpline relating to teenage violence against parents. The figure was lower in the Northern Health Trust, with 17%, while the Western Health Trust showed a 30% increase. The statistics compare figures for 2010/2011 with the latest figures for calls from 2011/2012.
Charlene Brooks, Director for Parents Helpline, a project within Parenting NI reported: “The dramatic rise in parents calling the helpline because their teenage children are aggressive or violent towards them, is a worrying trend. Parents call the Parents Helpline for a variety of reasons – they are often worried about their child’s behaviour or family tensions, but recognise the importance of taking steps to get help for the situation. Through our Parenting Education Programmes we have also experienced an increase in parents telling us about ‘behavioural issues’ they are experiencing at home and many will eventually disclose that their teenage child is violent towards them. Understandably many parents are ashamed to admit that their child is aggressive or violent towards them and parents often don’t know where to turn for support.”
Parenting NI research shows that the problem is more prevalent amongst teenage boys, with two thirds of calls to the Parents Helpline about aggression being from parents concerned about their teenage sons.
Charlene Brooks, added: “Teenage aggression can often stem from other underlying problems such as family stress, mental health, separation and divorce or addiction and substance abuse. When parents call the Parents Helpline, we try to get to the root of the problem in order to help parents find a way to ease tensions at home. It is usually of more benefit if parents will also come along to an appointment or attend a Parenting Education Programme. Violence in any form is unacceptable. Like adults, children and young people need to be helped to find alternative ways of dealing with their anger. Parenting NI staff are currently undergoing specific training in ‘Non Violent Resistance’ techniques so that they can train parents in how to deal with violence and aggression at home. This is proving very beneficial and aims to equip parents with vital skills so that they can take control of tense situations at home to avoid physical or verbal abuse,”
Parenting NI was established as Parent Advice Centre in 1979 and has developed since then to be a “leading parenting support organisation, committed to delivering high quality services.” Parenting NI works to promote positive parenting by providing support, training and information on family issues and influencing policy, provision and practice at all levels, through its helpline, parenting education programmes and parenting forum. Annual reports since 2004/2005, including statistics for the years since 2008/2009, can be found on their website, as well as details of the other services they run and contact details. The helpline was significantly reorganised and relaunched in 2008/2009, and immediately identified an increase in calls as parents both discovered, and appreciated, the new style service. The report for 2009/2010 shows that there were 5,346 contacts in that year, an 8% increase form the previous year, with the majority being from parents. 14% of the calls concerned aggression. There were 5,380 calls in 2010/2011.
The press release also indicated that research from 2009 on teenage aggression suggests that 18 per cent of two parent families and 29 per cent of one parent families experience teenage aggression or violence towards parents. Some data comes from “Boiling Point: problem anger and what we can do about it”, a 2008 report from the Mental Health Foundation, documenting research garnered from a YouGov survey of 2000 people, as well as a literature review and stakeholder interviews.