Child to Parent Violence: Insights from Spain

Over the last few months I have been conscious that this blog has focused very much on events in the UK, with some coverage of Australia and the US and little from elsewhere. But I am also aware that the readership spreads right across the world; and so I would like to try to bring some broader content to  “balance” things out a little. I know that there is important work going on in many other countries, from reading bibliographies and from following news and events, through colleagues attending international conferences as well as from a google alert.

In this post I want to bring together some information regarding work on child to parent violence (CPV) in Spain. I would value any comments or contributions on this to further expand my knowledge. Similarly, I hope that practitioners and researchers from around the world will take the time to let us know what is going on where they are. We can all be encouraged in hearing of the progress and developments of others.

I have come across a number of papers published in the last few years following Spanish research. Of the ones I have found, there has been a marked interest in determining if there is a profile for families experiencing CPV. These have looked at the interplay with other forms of family violence, including childhood experiences of witnessing domestic violence (Gamez-Guadix and Calvete,  Ibabe et al), characteristics of the family (Calvete et al, Ibabe and Juareguizar, Ibabe et al), and the personality and behavioural characteristics of the young person (Calvete et al, Ibabe and Juareguizar, Ibabe et al). All four of these studies have also looked at difference by gender.  Methodology has involved the use of questionnaires with school or university students, or, in the case of Ibabe and Juareguizar the examination of judicial proceedings of adolescents in court. Findings have generally been in line with those of other countries: links with witnessing domestic violence, with drug use by the teen, with other behavioural difficulties, and, perhaps controversially, with what is described as “inappropriate upbringing by the mother”. (Ibabe et al) A psychological profile has been suggested that combines internalizing of problems and an instrumental use of violence in adolescents perpetrating CPV (Calvete et al). Ibabe and Juareguizar point to the absence of empathy and low self-esteem as important factors in the young person. There is a suggestion of a lower proportion of young people being involved in perpetrating CPV than elsewhere, and in more equal distribution by gender, but Gallagher has discussed a number of factors affecting the reliability of questionnaire type surveys and has suggested (private correspondence) that the examination of other Spanish data gives more similar boy / girl ratios to that found in Australia, Britain or the US.

This observation is echoed by a British journalist living in Spain, blogging under the name ‘Sancho’. In looking at crime data he noted not only a dramatic rise in reports of violence from child to parent or grandparent in Spain in the period 2007 – 2009, from 2000 to 4000, with actual incidence probably higher as many cases are not brought to the attention of the police or courts; but also that the vast majority of reported CPV involved sons and mothers, (single mothers in particular). This period of time would coincide with Gallagher’s observation of a growth of interest in the subject in the last four or five years leading up to an international conference held in Madrid in 2011, attended by over 300 professionals, at which he and Barbara Cottrell were invited to speak.

Calvete et al suggest that increases in rates of CPV have been attributed to a tendency towards more permissive parenting styles and changes in the power cycles within families. It is interesting to read this in the light of another paper, by Garcia and Gracia, which examined the optimium parenting style for Spanish families. Looking at 4 different outcomes: self esteem, psychosocial maladjustment, personal competence and problem behaviours, results showed that both indulgent and authoritative parenting styles were associated with better outcomes than authoritarian and neglectful, but that “in Spain the optimum style of parenting is the indulgent one, as adolescents’ scores in the four sets of youth outcomes were equal or better than the authoritative style of parenting.” Work by Gallagher, amongst others, has suggested that an increasing permissive and indulgent style of parenting may contribute to later abuse from teens with a sense of over-entitlement.

Most recently, researchers at the Instituto de Investigacion Polibienestar – Universitat de Valencia in Spain have become involved as partners in the Daphne 111 research project based at Brighton University, comparing incidences of CPV across different countries and looking at different models of intervention. Irene Monsonis spoke at the launch of the research project about the way the research institute became aware of CPV as an issue through work into parental interaction with teens over the use of technology. Now that this is no longer a hidden problem, the need is to find the appropriate way to respond, and the Institute will be involved in evaluation of different methods. My understanding is that the current emphasis within Spain is for young people to be placed in residential care for treatment as a response to CPV, but I would be interested to hear more about the preferred models of intervention.

I offer here a very brief list of papers quoted above, as well as a couple of others cited in these reports. I look forward to reading and hearing more about the work in Spain in connection with child to parent violence.


Calvete, E. Orue, I. and Gamez-Guadix, M. (2013) Child to Parent Violence: Emotional and Behavioural Predictors, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 28:4, 755-772  (Abstract here)

Gallager, E. (2018) Children’s Violence to Parents: A Critical Literature Review, dissertation submitted for Masters Degree in Social Work, Monash University (Available from website)

Gamez-Guadix, M. and Calvete, E. (2012) Child-to-parent violence and its association with exposure to marital violence and parent-to-child violence, [Article in Spanish] Psicothema, 24:2, 277-283 (Abstract here)

Garcia, F. & Gracia, E. (2009) Is Always Authoritative the Optimum Parenting Style? Evidence from Spanish Families, Adolescence, 44:173 (Full paper here)

Ibabe, I. & Jaureguizar, J. (2010). Child-to-parent violence: profile of abusive adolescents and their families. Journal of Criminal Justice, 38(4), 616–624. (Abstract here)

Ibabe, I., Juareguizar, J. & Bentler, P. (2013) Risk Factors for Child-to-Parent Violence, Journal of Family Violence, May 2013 (Abstract here)

Ibabe, I., Jaureguizar, J. & Díaz, O. (2009). Adolescent violence against parents: is it a consequence of gender inequality? The European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context, 1(1), 1–13. (Abstract here)

1 Comment

Filed under Discussion, publications, Research

One response to “Child to Parent Violence: Insights from Spain

  1. I’m thrilled to have received an email from Jose Alberto Llamazeres, regarding work taking place in the Basque region of Spain, which I have attached here as a comment.

    I’m responsible/coordinator of The Hobetzen Center. In this Center there is a team of 9 people who work with families where there is violence against parents. We belong to Berriztu Education Association, who developed this program to the Provincial Council of Bizkaia (Basque Country)

    For the last 5 years we offer to the families of Bizkaia an aid program for this problem, combining psychotherapy and educational support.
    In these years we have helped over 130 families. Each family is helped by three professionals that make a team: two family therapists (therapist and co-therapist) and a family educator.

    For a maximum period of 12 months, the family has psychotherapeutic sessions in different modalities (family, individual, couples, siblings, …) and interviews with the educator in their own environment (home, neighborhood, …). The ultimate goal is to be able to interact without violence.

    Through this blog, I would like to get in contact with other experiences of diferent countries where work with this family problem, in order to expand and share our knowledge.


    José Alberto Llamazares.
    Coordinator of The Hobetzen Center
    Asociación Educativa Berriztu.

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