Child to parent abuse: a literature review

Sixty years of child-to-parent abuse research: What we know and where to go, is available on line from this month, and is published in the January / February 2018 volume of the journal, Aggression and Violent Behaviour. Simmons, McEwan, Purcell and Ogloff found over 9900 English language peer reviewed articles up to December 2016 through various searches; and their paper reviews 84 specific references. After some discussion about definitions and terminology, they consider the shortcomings of existing reviews, specifically their frequent basis in a single theoretical framework, as well as the problems of reliability of much of the data, and go on to propose a more integrated understanding with knowledge from different disciplines.

While there are no surprises here, the paper is extremely useful as a reference in itself for all those engaged in this field of work, bringing together and critiquing as it does the available research. I found the discussion on terminology interesting – there is so much debate and disagreement around this and everyone seems to have their favourite. The reliability of statistics is a particular bugbear of mine as I am often asked to give a figure for prevalence. By dividing findings into community, clinical and offender samples, the authors give a more thorough analysis and illustrate some of the difficulties in making generalised statements about this aspect of family violence. The paper considers links described with gender, age, anti0social behaviour, cognitive and emotional factors, mental health, substance use, family relationships and parenting style, exposure to family violence, situational antecedents, race and ethnicity, SES, marital situation of the victim and school attachment. Interestingly, they relate that “despite 60-years of research, there is yet to be any investigation of cross-cultural differences or patterns in CPA.

Finally there is a discussion of the gaps in research, and a comprehensive table of suggested ways forward. With a significant number of PhDs being available in this subject of late, this seems a good place to start!

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