Category Archives: Book review

New work on APVA draws attention to links with sibling abuse and bullying.

In my own book, Child to Parent Violence and Abuse: a Practitioner’s Guide to Working with Families, I included examples of how different individuals had sought to “make real” the issue of data, and prevalence of CPVA for their own work and that of other practitioners and policy makers. Elizabeth McCloud had spoken to me at a conference some years earlier about the project she was undertaking, and she is one of the people referenced in my work. So I was thrilled to hear that her research was completed, and available to all. My one regret is that I did not find the time to read this earlier.

The book is aimed at “academics, professionals and policy makers with an interest in youth offending, contextual safeguarding and domestic violence”. One of the first to undertake a large quantitative study of this size in the UK, McCloud sought to identify specific characteristics and experiences at home and school associated with the experience of adolescent to parent violence and abuse (APVA), and explored whether these could be used to predict its occurrence. As such it includes important new information about both bullying and sibling abuse, two areas which have received less coverage in this country.

Over the course of eight chapters, McCloud sets out the detail of her work and findings in the context of previous research, theoretical approaches, and the development of policy, and makes recommendations for future investigation, as well as the application of her findings to day to day work within services concerned with the safety and well-being of young people and families. As a narrative of the course of her research, it is by its nature an academic work. Indeed, chapter 6 carries a warning: “this chapter is dense with statistics”. Nevertheless, the discussion within each section brings these findings to life and makes the research more accessible to those of us less familiar with statistical language.

Discussing the problem that we still have no agreed terminology or definition, McCloud offers her own definition: Any pattern of intended incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse by an adolescent (10 to 18 years old) towards a parent or carer. This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse: psychological, emotional, physical, sexual abuse, financial and economic. Through the use of questionnaires undertaken across 2 secondary schools, with 890 young people between the ages of 10 and 18 , she considers three separate categories of abuse, psychological, physical and severe, and examines the influence of personal and family characteristics in each case, for example emotional difficulties, family stress, substance use, and broader aggressive behaviour. Of particular interest, chapter 5 outlines significant associations between APVA behaviour and the experience of bullying, whether as a victim, observer or perpetrator.

The final chapter looks at the implications of the findings, and McCloud recommends that APVA could be screened for in universal settings such as schools. Furthermore, she suggests the need for a holistic whole family approach to assessment, and intervention via a tiered model (universal, early help, targeted and specialist), recognising the escalating levels of APVA.

While McCloud is at pains to locate her findings within the larger body of work, there are also important new insights regarding the links between sibling abuse and APVA; and between bullying, particularly in schools, and APVA behaviour within the home. This latter area of work is one of particular interest to me and so I hope that this will be taken up and developed further. The contributions to understanding are thus significant and timely.

Adolescent-to-Parent Violence and Abuse: Applying Research to Policy and Practice (2021) is published by Palgrave Macmillan and is available in print and as an ebook.

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Mothering challenging adult children

Happy Publication Day to Judith Smith, author of Difficult: mothering challenging adult children through conflict and change, which is published today!

Reading this very welcome book, I was faced with a barrage of emotions:  

  • Terrible sadness at the sacrifices made by so many women to keep their child as safe as they know how.
  • Anger at the expectations and prejudices in the attitudes of others towards mothers giving a home or a helping hand to their adult children.
  • Weary resignation in the knowledge that the public services needed to take over the care still do not exist in sufficient numbers.
  • A smile at the similarities in so much of the book with my own field of child to parent violence and abuse.
  • And a shout of joy that the book exists – an answer to so many emails and calls for help that I and others receive each week!

Dr Judith Smith is a senior clinical social worker, psychotherapist, professor and researcher in the field of gerontology. This book is based on 8 years of work in which she interviewed more than 50 women, over the age of 60, about their experiences of mothering children who returned home in later life, and whose behaviour was described as challenging – sometimes dangerous. She coined the expression “Difficult” to give a name to the experiences of women in this position, offering a phrase that encapsulated the ambivalence in their feelings as well as the day-to-day practicalities of life, without attaching blame. 

From the start we hear from a range of women about their lives, their hopes and fears. Learning that you are not alone, starting to speak openly about the issues, reflecting on the reality of choices available can begin a process of change in thinking. And the focus is very much on the mothers here – this is not a book about how you can make your child change what they do. Judith explores the ambivalence felt by the women she met, holding in mind both negative and positive feelings about children; and offering new ways to handle uncertainty. The truth is that the options available in terms of alternative care may be few and far between, through a combination of societal expectation and underfunding of public services. There is tremendous empathy for all these women throughout the pages. 

In the final chapters, Judith explores how the Stages of Change model can help to provide a framework for understanding what level of intervention might be possible; and then also looks at the different levels of support that are needed. Building social networks, devising self-care strategies, staying safe, and exploring avenues of help for the child – all sadly familiar for those working with younger children too. While the resources listed are generally for a North American audience, there will likely be enough similar in other countries to make this section useful too. 

There are different legal positions here, than with children and young people under 18, different recourse to law, remedies or responsibilities; but the bond that ties mother and child remains, with its complex emotional and societal meanings. So much resonates with my own work, not least the lack of understanding from both the general public and many in positions of authority. 

It will be good to have something to offer that growing number of people seeking help with their difficult adult children. Their numbers may be expanding for the reasons outlined by Judith, but I hope that that there is also a developing sense that others are in the same boat as more and more people speak openly about their lives. There are no easy answers, and it requires hard work, some practical, but also a lot of emotional work – but if you are ready for change then Judith offers this book for you. 

Judith R. Smith, Difficult. Mothering challenging adult children through conflict and change, Rowman and Littlefield, 2022

Judith welcomes feedback, questions and conversation with parents and can be contacted via her website, Facebook page and Twitter. 

https://www.difficultmothering.com

https://www.facebook.com/difficultmothering/

@JudithRSmithPhD

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Support for Adoptive Families

From time to time I receive books for review, particularly where they address the issue of child to parent violence and abuse. Where appropriate, I am pleased to comment on the content and provide comments for review. The new publication from Louise Allen, How to Adopt a Child, Your step-by-step guide to adoption and parenting, was one such book, and I was interested to find out about her comprehensive knowledge and experience of the adoption system. I have attached the review as submitted. You can purchase Louise’s book on Amazon (or through your local independent bookshop!) and you can read more about Louise’s work on her website.

Louise Allen makes it clear from the very first pages that this is a book with adoptive parents and their children at its heart. She writes from personal experience, laying out every aspect of the adoption process, in order that those thinking about adoption might have no surprises later. Not to put people off – unless that is the right response – but to leave you fully informed, fully armed, fully prepared to offer the support, the healing and love that will be needed. There is much about trauma, which will feature heavily for children who find themselves in need of a home. Allen pulls no punches in describing what this looks and feels like for the child, and the consequential feelings for the adults, but she goes on to offer very practical advice that comes from many years of training, parenting, and above all listening to children. As she says, “Living with a violent child that you have committed to love while everyone around you is offering their opinion is hard, very hard”. Allen is here to make it just a little less hard.

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Therapeutically Parenting Teens, book review time

Julie Selwyn’s groundbreaking report into adoption breakdown  found that around one third of adoptions pass smoothly, around a third of families were mostly getting on OK but with ups and downs, and the other third were having significant difficulties. If you’ve found it as far as my website then I’m assuming you’re probably not in the first third, and if that’s the case you may well be interested in what Sally Donovan has to say in her latest book: The Unofficial Guide to Therapeutic Parenting, The Teen Years. Continue reading

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Reports from the 2018 CPVA Survey

You may have been following the discussion opened up by Dr Wendy Thorley and Al Coates, following their survey of adoptive and foster families at the end of 2016 (here,  here, here and here), and then the enlarged questionnaire to all families experiencing violence and aggression from their children of 2018. If so, you will already be aware of the way in which the responses brought to the fore a number of difficulties with the way in which CPVA is understood and conceptualised; particularly around intent, and children who have either a recognised mental health diagnosis, learning difficulty, or have experienced trauma in early childhood. Two documents are now available, comprising a full and detailed analysis of the recent survey responses, and an extended summary of the main discussion points and recommendations. The first is available through Amazon, the second as a free download from Academia. Continue reading

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Who’s in Charge? A much awaited book from Eddie Gallagher

 

Many of us have been waiting a long time for this book to appear. Whether you prefer to think about it as a bible or a brain is up to you, but the 500+ pages represent the outpouring of Eddie Gallagher’s understanding and thinking over nearly 25 years in the field of children’s violence and abuse towards parents, drawing on both available literature and his own significant practice experience, working with families individually and in developing the Who’s in Charge? model of work with parents. Continue reading

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Non-Violent Resistance as a response to a “Wicked Problem”

Declan Coogan’s new book, Child to Parent Violence and Abuse: Family Interventions with Non-Violent Resistance, was published in November, and I am very pleased to finally be able to read and review it!

Coogan first encountered Non-Violent Resistance (NVR) as a therapeutic intervention in 2007, and has been instrumental in piloting it as a response to child to parent violence, offering training and consultation, and ultimately in introducing it as a nationwide model in Ireland. As such, he is very definitely qualified to present this book as an explanation of, and introduction to, the practice of NVR, particularly with reference to violence and abuse from children to parents. Continue reading

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“Family Interventions with Non Violent Resistance”

It’s great to see a new book in the field of child to parent violence and abuse coming out later this year from Declan Coogan, who has driven the development of understanding and use of Non Violent Resistance in Ireland.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The book can be pre-ordered on Amazon now, or you can sign up to receive more information from the publisher, JKP, once it is available.

Addressing the under-reported issue of child to parent violence and abuse, this book presents the effective intervention method of Non-Violent Resistance. Tips for adapting the method, alongside case studies and downloadable forms make this an invaluable tool for practitioners working with affected families.

Providing an authoritative overview of the growing phenomena of child to parent violence – a feature in the daily life of increasing numbers of families – this book outlines what we know about it, what is effective in addressing it, and outlines a proven model for intervention. 

Based on Non Violent Resistance (NVR), the model is founded on a number of key elements: parental commitment to non-violence, de-escalation skills, increased parental presence, engaging the support network and acts of reconciliation. The book outlines the theory and principles, and provides pragmatic guidance for implementing these elements, accompanied by case studies to bring the theory to life.

Declan was part of the team who worked on the pan-European RCPV project which reported in 2015; and continues to teach, train and develop the work within Ireland.

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Adopting: real life stories

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I was a bit surprised when this book first dropped through my letter box. I hadn’t offered to review it and so for a while it lay on a very tall pile of “books to read when I have some spare time”. But of course the title should have given it away…

If anyone was thinking that love is all that’s needed, or was tempted ever to say that “all kids do that”, then this is a book for them! Not that it’s all doom and gloom by any means. Adoption stories are statistically more often positive and affirming, but it is a sad fact that as many as a third of families will experience real struggles (see Beyond the Adoption Order) and Ann Morris quietly and without drama shows us both sides of the coin. Continue reading

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Book review: Anger is my friend

Why can it seem so difficult to engage young people in addressing their violence? Sam Ross suggests that we are starting from the wrong place. If we are to help teenagers understand that aggression is more likely to harm than help them, we have to understand why they hold on to it so tightly in the first place.

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Speaking sometimes in the voice of an adult, and sometimes as a teen, Ross has given us a collection of writings (not a manual) to reflect on, whether on your own or as part of a group for supervision or training. It is written for professionals but also valuable for parents, and takes as its central point the mantra that if you try to treat the anger you will always fail: First you must build a relationship. Continue reading

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