CPV: So what does it look like, Part 1.

This is a post I have had in mind for a while, and which has been changing shape faster than I can write. As a result, this is going to be part 1, and I will continue the discussion over the next weeks and months. It really develops two themes and questions: what are we actually talking about when we present training or speak about child to parent violence (CPV); and where are the edges of the definition – what’s included, who’s included, and what and who’s not? It is something we need to address. I am often asked for examples to illustrate a discussion or seminar. It is lazy to simply assume that people understand the concept just because we have become familiar with it. “The outside world find it hard to imagine. As a mother you don’t broadcast it to the outside world because its not something you’re particularly proud of.” (Rosie Noble) But as more and more people start to speak out and to use the phrase “child to parent violence” it inevitably stretches a bit at the edges.

Many years ago now – by CPV standards – Eddie Gallagher gave a handy list of the types of family situation that might be affected (in his experience) by child to parent violence. Since then the list has grown, and it inevitably includes examples that make us a bit squeamish in including them under an official definition: severely disabled children for instance, or those acting in self defence. I have sometimes pondered how parents themselves feel about including themselves in a CPV definition. Indeed, I have asked parents of children with ASD whether they feel it is appropriate to their situation. Is that how they experience the situation? Do they feel they need to protect their child by rejecting the definition? Are the types of help currently available completely inappropriate to their situation and so it does not seem to include them? I  meet parents of children with a learning disability who describe persistent and escalating levels of violence and abuse, that in many ways matches the experience of families with adopted children, or families who have experienced domestic violence, or with mental ill health. And of course in each situation there may be layer upon layer to consider. There is rarely one clear cause or trigger, and for each family it will look and feel slightly different.

Is it taboo to admit your child with disabilities hits or bites you? On Woman’s Hour, on February 21st, Jane Garvey introduced a segment about caring for a child with disabilities. You can hear the programme here, and the discussion lasts from the start to 25 minutes in. There are interviews with Nikita, parent of a five year old child, Nayan, with microcephaly, who shows tremendous resilience in the face of regular tantrums and lashing out which comes from frustration; with Rosie Noble, Family Support Manager at Contact a Family, who offers reassurance that things can get better; and with Yvonne Newbold, mother of Toby, who has written extensively about caring for a child with disability. Yvonne has since blogged about the experience of appearing on the programme, and about her decision to speak out. I highly recommend her blog both for the honesty of the encounter, and for information about Yvonne’s wider campaigning to improve support for families experiencing long term, significant levels of violence from their learning disabled children. I’m not going to repeat the details here. If you are interested in knowing more about Yvonne’s experience then please do check out her website. She has organised a groundbreaking conference for the coming weekend, following her Woman’s Hour appearance, and I hope to post more information about her campaigning in the coming weeks.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think Nikita’s situation would be included by many people within a CPV definition. That is not to diminish the level of violence she and her husband face – and sadly may continue to experience, but to question the level of control or intent involved in the hitting and lashing out. But how will we feel as Nayan becomes older, bigger and stronger? What about Yvonne and Toby – how is their situation different? Is it different? The issue of intent is one I will return to in later posts, as it seems to be a central part of the conversation, and yet raises more questions than it answers.

If that’s not enough questions, I want to conclude by drawing some thoughts together and throwing a final one out there for discussion.

When we discuss child to parent violence we are not talking about the odd push or shove, about stroppy teenagers, or about an argument we once had that got out of hand. The phrase is used to describe a pattern of persistent and often escalating violence and abuse over perhaps years, from a child or young person towards their parent or carer. The routes to CPV are many and varied, and frequently overlapping. Each family situation is unique, and yet there are many commonalities, not least in the actual day to day experience and damage – physical and emotional that is done. Nikita describes the pain and hope of living with a disabled child. Yvonne has years of experience and has taken a decision to break the silence, to encourage others to speak out, and to campaign for better support. These are just two examples of what CPV might look and feel like.

So my question(s): Does that help your understanding or does it complicate it? And if you have a disabled child yourself, how do you feel about being included within the definition of child to parent violence? As always, please do join in the conversation!

May 3rd 2017: I’m adding on a bit here rather than starting a new post, because I think it furthers these particular thoughts. 

Yvonne Newbold has continued to add to her own website over the last weeks, and this includes a page about dealing with violent and challenging behaviour from children and young people with neuro-disabilities. I think it is significant that Yvonne chooses to use this phrase – VCB rather than CPV – in this situation.


Filed under Discussion

5 responses to “CPV: So what does it look like, Part 1.

  1. Becca

    I feel it complicates it and my understanding is that you are talking about two different things. When I think about child to parent abuse I think of intent to have power and control over the parent. I am unsure if that would be considered the intent of a disabled child. There is no denying that the violence and abuse that parents might receive from a disabled child is awful, serious and difficult. Even as I am writing this I am questioning myself, am I saying that its to be expected from a “disabled” child and so that makes its “ok?” I worked with a family that have an autistic child and the violence was extreme. The advice I gave to the family was arguably the same but packaged in a different way – instead of using words to communicate violence being unacceptable we used PEC cards. hmm…I think I am more confused now than I was when I started writing this…..

    • I think your reply encapsulates the problem exactly! And for instance, with a child who has autism, there may well be other issues and the range of disability – or ability – can be very broad. It starts to feel very difficult to make any categorical statements other than that each family is unique and that a full, comprehensive assessment is needed in every situation. I wonder whether the key difference is going to be about the suitability of different intervention programmes. Thank you Becca for your input.

  2. alce m

    Just been lucky enough to be able to attend this event organised at short notice and sold out very quickly

    How to Help and Support Children with Violent Challenging Behaviour

    All speakers were brilliant but two fantastic speakers that touch on child protection issues for SEN kids
    Dr Girish Vaidya – Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Sheffield

    Mary Aspinall-Miles – Barrister

    Many of the Mums had children on Child protection plans because of behaviour of a sibling.
    Fantastic to have a CAHMS psychatrist raise serious concerns on the value placed on Attachment theories by professionals in the face of overwhelming evidence that a child within or on the edge of Care has an unmet need as a result of ASD/ADHD or sim (FASD) …..

    • Thanks for your comment. I do hope to hear more about how the conference went, and the learning we can all take from it.

      • alce m

        There was filming so hopefully it will go on the website in time?.

        One of the first things Yvonne did was ask for a show of hands of parents/carers who had been hit by their child that week ( most of the non-professionals present) and later of parents/carers who had never met anyone else who is in their position ( a to me shocking number of parents ) – it just highlighted how isolated many parents are. I spoke to a mum of an 8 year old and encouraged her to join a forum such as the PDA Society for support ( despite the dangers of ‘group think’ where everyone has the same view) – even just to read the threads and discussions because there is so much expertise among parents themselves. Her response was that it scared her too much to read posts. I guess that is where people need the first bit of help – around real workable strategies that help so people have hope.
        People really do give up without hope – it is the fuel in the engine of change and really does move mountains.
        On the subject of blame – I have a very dry sense of humour sorry – but I found it surreal that the last session was a mindfullness/meditation session where the ‘refrain was ‘You are not to blame’ ‘Let go of any guilt’ –What can I say having a ‘Troubled Families Parenting Programme’ Award Certificate (30 hours plus, both my husband and I) I sat through it saying this is good advice but is not applicable for the parent of a child who from the age of two was on a different developmental trajectory..C’est La Vie

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