The Adolescent Violence to Parents (APV) conference held this week (September 23rd 2013) in Oxford was an important landmark in terms of knowledge and understanding, as the findings of the three year ESRC-funded research led by Rachel Condry and Caroline Miles were presented to a packed audience of over 130 people.
This represented the first large scale analysis of police data on APV in the UK, looking at all cases reported to the Metropolitan Police, and defined as constituting a criminal offence, between April 2009 and March 2010 (n=1892). The research looked at victim, offender and incident characteristics and then considered how adolescent violence to parents should be understood and addressed within the field of criminology in the future.
The findings were presented in terms of families’ experience, criminal justice responses, and innovative responses, with panels to address each angle, and panel members talking about their own work and answering questions. Briefing papers will be available soon, and a paper has been published in the journal Criminology and Criminal Justice. A book is also planned to bring the findings together with a deeper analysis.
Broadly speaking, the characteristics correspond with findings from work in the US, Canada and Australia, with a predominance of male aggressors and mothers as victims; and an adolescent mean age of 16.4 years. Victim mean-age also fell within the recognised range, but there were some mixed findings regarding class, ethnicity and socio-economic grouping. It may be that this can be accounted for by the local demographics, and by recognising that some groups are more likely to call the police than others. It was also acknowledged that these figures represent the tip of the iceberg as parents typically experience multiple incidents before calling the police (seen as a last resort) and some will take other routes all together. A large number of predisposing factors were found, with no one clear thread. These included mental health issues and learning difficulties, substance use, prior experience of domestic violence and violence outside of the home. Difficulties at school, or in attendance, was the single most common theme.
By far the largest part of the day was taken up by discussions around the implications for policy and practice within the criminal and youth justice fields, and within domestic violence work. Other agencies were acknowledged but not specifically represented as the focus was on the absence of understanding and analysis within criminology. I have jotted some notes under headings, which I believe capture the flavour and direction of thought.
Data and information still needed
* APV still needs naming / defining and recognition
* To convince policy makers
* To inform service development
Cultural shift needed
* The way we understand family violence
* Issues of power and control
* Blurred boundaries between victim and abuser
* Bring in understanding of emotions, attachment, trauma
* Young people are not mini-adults, they need bespoke services
Training and Education
* For young people on relationships
* For practitioners – all should have understanding but also need specialists
* Makes early intervention more possible
* Makes referral on more reliable
The socio-political context
* Need to bring APV to the attention of government in a way that attracts attention eg savings to be made
* Impacts of poverty, over-crowding, cuts to services
* Responses should be driven by best practice, not by targets and tables
CJS / Diversionary Work
* An agreement that CJS is not able to provide the best response at present, BUT, APV is found here so we must do something
* Some good practice developing within Youth Offending service – needs embedding
* Important the police are involved to recognise seriousness – could be a gateway
* Concerns about restorative justice, don’t neglect safety
* Good timing re development in youth courts currently being explored by the YJB
It was exciting to have such a large and diverse group discussing these issues. There was a real sense of energy in the room and a hope that this was the start of the next stage in raising awareness and developing services. Rachel invited guest blog posts on the APV site. I would also welcome contributions. If anyone would like to take one of the headings and offer some comments or experience……
Perhaps the most powerful thought though that I will take away from the day was from Greg Routt of Step-Up in Seattle. We need to be aware that what we are now developing in the UK, in a network of practitioners and researchers meeting regularly together, is a privilege and something that we should not take for granted. Perhaps it’s easier in a small island, but to get this far has taken time and effort and contributions from many individuals. Together we CAN move this forward!
You can find more comments about the day on twitter, #APVconference.