The majority of the parent abuse research in the UK has come out of the criminology discipline, and so it was fitting that the Criminology Research Group at Edge Hill University chose Adolescent to Parent Violence as the topic for the first open seminar in a new series sponsored by the British Society of Criminology. Three presentations: from Helen Baker, Simon Retford and Amanda Holt, brought us up to date with some of the current issues being considered.
Helen Baker has published a number of papers considering the gendered nature of family violence and the problematizing of young men. Her current work is taking this further, and her presentation was very focused around images of adolescence, and the lack of the child’s voice in the debate. At present the predominant response to children’s violence to parents is also coming from a criminological background, and Helen encouraged us to think about what this might mean in terms of further labeling young people. The big question, which has been much on my own mind also of late, was to ask what parent abuse has to say about us as a society, and about the structures that we create to sustain or to challenge violence and abuse within these relationships.
Simon Retford is progressing well in his professional doctorate on the subject of adolescent to parent violence, and highlighted some issues which continue to emerge. Despite the high level of knowledge and experience in practitioners, this issue is still not recorded in a consistent or strategic manner, and so the prevalence cannot be used to inform service delivery. With current cuts to funding, there is a real need for more collaborative work – and indeed the afternoon was marked by an openness and sharing of information across disciplines and projects that was both exciting and encouraging.
Amanda Holt brought us up to date on work currently happening within the Home Office around the VAWG strategy, then, with a whistle-stop tour of a cross section of models of intervention currently being used across the country, she was particularly interested in the emphasis on restorative justice approaches, which seems to be an emerging theme. Less applicable in adult family violence, this recognizes the strong desire for parents and children to repair and restore their relationship. Other issues, which were highlighted as needing addressing, were the development of effective (non-threatening) assessment tools and a robust evaluation system.
Questions from the floor ranged from the theoretical to the practical. There was an emphasis on making use of learning across disciplines, thinking about neuroscience in particular; and on finding ways to better incorporate preventive work into the school curriculum through PHSE as well as into safeguarding training. A variety of issues were highlighted as needing further attention, including the experience of care leavers, and of course the old faithfuls: the need to agree on terminology, and on where to site a response.
The last year saw a very encouraging focus on the issue of parent abuse, and the challenge is to maintain that momentum over the next year. The interest in the seminar from practitioners and academics across the north of England suggests that this is a topic which will continue to generate significant discussion.