As we emerge out of lockdown in Britain, I have been musing about what we’ve learned in this period about the issue of child to parent violence and abuse, and about some possible answers to the kinds of questions we are always being asked: Is it getting worse, why is it getting worse – you know the ones!
Each of us has experienced lockdown in a unique way, according to our circumstances, but there are many commonalities. People have reported poor or troubled sleep, the intensity of living in close quarters with the same people and the “pressure cooker” effect as tensions build; the anguish of not being able to touch or hold people we are close to, not feeling able to comfort people in distress, increased anxiety with loss of control over our situation and lives. Many people have also experienced bereavement, financial difficulties or poverty of resources. Some have seen a huge increase in work and all that brings, while others have been left wondering about their long term employment. There have been concerns about the length of time children are spending on their screens, and about the mental health of both old and young. For some there has been the stress of supporting school work, for others the relief of fewer demands to comply with rules and expectations. There has been a notable rise in reports of domestic abuse during this period, and, alongside greater interest in the media, more people have come forward too to talk about the abuse they experience from their own children.
So, while we wait for the results of the various pieces of research, what can we draw out of this in an admittedly anecdotal way? Here are my tentative proposals:
- Loss/lack of control over your environment is extremely stressful
- Stress is indeed a factor in children’s abuse of their parents
- Increase in stress is likely to make the abuse worse and may be the start of abuse for some families
- Different families find different things stressful
- Changes in society have impacted on how families relate to each other
- The thing about not being able to hold people and be held. This has made me think more about children in school particularly who may use behaviour to “get attention” even to the point of “restraint”
In the past (BC!) I would have offered a vague answer to the question of whether CPV is getting worse – about not knowing for sure because the data is so thin, and maybe talked about changes in society that have taken place that may offer some insight into different pressures faced by families. Now I believe we are able to offer more definitive answers and commentary. Looking at the different characteristics, and trigger points, we can start to see how important it is to know the family’s individual circumstances, how there are very many different contributory factors, and how these work together. This is not particularly new understanding, but the new world situation and the new observations have offered confirmation of what many people have long suspected or suggested.
And some other thoughts:
- Not being able to access a face-to-face service has added to stress for some families
- Many agencies have found that the move to an online offer went more smoothly than they had feared, but this depends on technological resources and skills.
- Some services were already operating online and this has underlined the potential effectiveness of this model
- Training opportunities have blossomed as services went online, along with greater access and affordability! Is this the way ahead?
As we embark on the long summer holidays, some parents are already tweeting about their anxieties facing six weeks with everyone at home again and fewer opportunities for activities and holiday clubs to keep everyone amused than in the past. As schools plan for return in September, there remains great uncertainty about what this will look like. Different headteachers have different priorities and philosophies, which will either encourage parents to think that everything will be OK, or drive more people in to exploring home-schooling full time. Will there be a second spike and lockdown? Is this with us for the long haul? What lies ahead? What can we take from this new understanding as we move forward?
We will shortly have the benefit of much COVID-specific research to add to our bag. And we have opportunities now to build on the coverage we have received, and the knowledge we have developed. We must not lose the momentum, but work now for the next stage of understanding, resourcing and provision!