A family therapy intervention in Portugal

Soon after viewing the Channel 5 documentary last week, I received this paper, from Neusa Patuleia, a clinical psychologist / family therapist in Portugal. (De)constructing Child-to-Parent Violence, discusses a particular therapeutic intervention at a residential establishment in that country.

It was timely indeed, concerned with a family of two parents and a 15 year old daughter, exhibiting violent controlling and defiant behaviour within the home; and brought a pleasantly different approach to understanding and work in cases of parent abuse.  While the family dynamics were identified as having arisen from a pattern of indulgence and lack of appropriate boundaries, the response was far from parent blaming. A family history opened up the reasons for the parents’ behaviour and difficulties in taking on their parental /parenting responsibilities. Locating the difficulties within the family as a whole, rather than the individual components made it possible to move forward as a family and reinforce their mutual benefits.

Within Portugal there has apparently been a 97.7% increase in requests for help in cases of CPV between 2004 and 2011, but knowledge remains scarce. The majority of the work in cases of child to parent violence takes place in residential establishments such as the one in this paper. The removal of the child is to effect safety for all, recognising the tremendous strain placed on mental and physical health of living in such a stressful environment. Early help may, or may not, be available from more local child support services (if they are aware of the issues). Consequently families are often separated by significant distance during the period of therapy.

Some people have suggested that Mediterranean countries (Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece), in experiencing child to parent violence as a significant issue, find that indulgent parenting features relatively more often than in other nations. Traditional patterns of child rearing have often given a centrality to the child in a very family-focussed culture. The impact of the recession around Europe interacts with this to create an environment where indulgence is harder to fund.

 

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