An odd question for me to be asking perhaps after all this time! I was very struck by the recent paper from Amanda Holt and Sam Lewis talking about the ways that child to parent violence is variously constructed by government and by practitioners, and the implications of this for practice. The starting positions we take, the assumptions we make may well be unconscious, but if it has taught us nothing else, CPV has surely taught us that we need to examine every assumption, challenge every preconception and get ready to believe the apparently impossible! That said, the debate as to where CPV “sits” (not quite domestic abuse, not quite juvenile delinquency, not quite safeguarding) does continue to grind on – albeit very slowly.
For a long time, we have introduced caveats into discussions about data and what we know in relation to child to parent violence and abuse. With much of what we have currently coming from within youth justice and police data (because it is more readily available), there are so many reasons why this is not telling the whole story: from parents themselves conceptualising what they experience as needing a police response, through breaking through the shame in order to report it, to receiving a response, being believed, the way an incident is reported and flagged. Many parents will choose not to go down this route, and so we cannot necessarily use the information gathered to make generalised claims about gender for instance, race, socio-economic group, or about the types of behaviour included in our broad definition.
This should not put us off though, providing we triangulate what data we have from sources such as the police with information from as many other sources as possible: education, health, social care, housing, domestic abuse, independent providers, and of course direct testimony from families. This also means we need to be ready to accept a range of types of information, not all of it hard facts. With many responses relatively recent in their inception, and with relatively small groups of families impacted, there is still not a great deal of the kind of ‘evidence’ for effectiveness that some people would like; but this doesn’t mean there is no evidence. Sadly though there are still huge gaps in the sorts of questions being asked – for instance we know little about the experiences of fathers affected by CPV, or by disabled parents, or marginalised groups such as the Gypsy / Traveller community.
CPV is not one simple profile, but complicated, multi-faceted, overlapping, stretched at the edges and defying anyone to design a simple response. Whatever the difficulties experienced by a child or family there will be many different issues, all warranting support and remedy – one of the reasons Declan Coogan described it as a “wicked problem” and why I am so keen to bring these other services more on board in discussions about creating a more strategic coordinated response.