Category Archives: Discussion

CPV, who needs a definition?

For as long as I have been working and thinking in this field, people have been talking about the problem that there is no official, agreed definition of child to parent violence (or whatever we are going to call it.) There are many and varied reasons why people have thought that having a definition might be quite a good idea. Essentially these are to do with naming it as ‘a thing’, with parents recognising what they experience as abusive, with services being better able to respond, with the possibility of counting something if we name and define it, with the hope of developing policy and practice responses at strategic level.

There were some raised eyebrows then at the recent N8PRP conference on Improving Policing Research and Practice on Child to Parent Violence and Abuse, when it was suggested not once, but twice, that a definition might be more trouble than it was worth and we could do without one altogether! Stick with me, and you can then decide for yourself whether the arguments made sense.

First of all, why do we want a definition? I refer you to my earlier paragraph here, but also there was a lot of discussion on the day about the way that different services conceptualise CPV, which then goes on to drive the particular response of that agency. If, or as, different agencies have different mandates and policy frameworks, this can help explain why it can sometimes be difficult to have conversations across services. Similarly, when people are doing research into the issue, they either start by choosing a definition, or even writing their own, to reflect what they want to study. Would an official definition help with this, or would people still remain within their own conceptualisation and paradigm?

If I haven’t lost you yet, it gets a bit more straightforward soon!

I have been working in this area for a relatively short time – since 2005, and yet the knowledge and understanding has grown – and changed – significantly in that time. One of the problems of a fast moving world, it was argued, is that the definitions we have been using have been continually updated as new insights are learned. So, definitions of child to parent violence have expanded and evolved over time to include fathers as well as mothers, younger ages of children, different types of abuse, and more comprehensive impacts on the family. One obvious example is that the Home Office guidance document, published in 2015, refers to Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse, rather than also including younger ages. If we fix on a definition now, we may well be rewriting it in a year’s time as new information comes to light. This is, of course, not the only area of work to which this argument could apply.

Secondly, and following on, it was argued that by using a particular definition we risk closing off the response to some groups. So, for instance, if we adopt a particular age limit in a definition it might make it difficult for parents of younger children to access help early on. (Arguably this issue of closing off help to particular groups happens at the moment any way because of where help is sometimes sited. Back to the conceptualisation argument here?)

Rather than adopting a limiting definition, it was suggested that we should look at risk and harm, and work in response to those. (If it feels abusive to someone, then it is, perhaps.)

Hannah Bows, who has done some impressive research into the abuse of older people, both within  and without the family, proposed that it would make more sense to understand the issue within a life course narrative. This is not actually a new problem she argues, but the extension of an existing problem, and it makes more sense then to share understanding across the field, as we see how abuse of parents from younger children can extend into adulthood, and then on to old age. She argues that it is not age that is the defining factor in distinguishing aspects of domestic abuse, but other variables that need to be considered. Following this argument, we would adopt one single definition for abuse within the family right across the life-course. Child to parent violence would then be a ‘subset’ of this. (This is something I would like to return to at another time. Or if anyone else would like to write something they would be very welcome!)

Plenty to think about there then – so, pick your jaws up off the floor, unscramble your brains, and let me know what you think!

2 Comments

Filed under Discussion

Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse: HM Government Consultation

The UK Government is consulting on proposed changes to the law on domestic abuse. The consultation runs from March 8th to May 31st, 2018, and you can access the consultation documents, published by the Home Office here. As well as the full version, a shorter document can also be viewed. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Discussion, Policy

Child to parent violence: Is it increasing?

Campaigning in this field, one of the most frequent questions I am asked is, “Is it increasing?” whether from journalists, interested members of the public, friends, professionals or families themselves. I admit to finding this a struggle to answer. Without a proper baseline, how can we ever tell? Are you asking for solid evidence or an anecdotal and impressionistic response? The logical, social scientist bit of me screams in pain as I offer the answer “possibly, probably”. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Discussion

Child to parent violence and sexually inappropriate behaviour

When authors discuss the different ways in which child to parent violence and abuse presents, it is common to include sexual abuse in the list; and yet it is difficult to find anywhere in the literature where this discussion is expanded. I know from conversations with adoptive families that the issue is very much alive, and extremely painful to discuss. While many families fear that a request for help will result in the instigation of a child protection investigation, this is an area where alarm bells will certainly be ringing straight away. How to respond though, in a way that maintains the safety of all involved, while not further traumatising either the young person or the parents, is rarely interrogated. A recent conversation with a friend undertaking a PhD at Bournemouth University has encouraged me that more information and greater discussion may be on the way! Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Discussion, Research

Safe and Therapeutic holding

Part 2, this week, from Lee Hollins. In this blog Lee further develops the understanding of restraint, with the concept of “safe and therapeutic holding”; and explains how they can be introduced as an aid to keeping children safe. Many thanks to Lee for writing these two blogs. It’s always good to hear from someone else, bringing as it does a greater breadth to the discussion and to our knowledge and understanding. 

Safe and Therapeutic Holding – Lee Hollins

Following on from the last blog which charted the evolution of ‘restraint’ and ‘physical intervention’ techniques, I pick up on a discussion that took place at the recent ‘Child to Parent Violence in adoptive and foster families’ conference. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Discussion

We need to talk about restraint

In November I was privileged to chair a conference in London about child to parent violence in adoptive and foster families. The day had been crafted to follow a narrative as we explored the effects of trauma for the child and then for the whole family; different insights into law and practice; and finally a session on how to respond when things really kick off. This came in part as a response to discussions I and others had been having about the training available for families in how to keep children safe. I know that some people had found this difficult or impossible to access, and so we were pleased to be joined by Lee Hollins of Securicare and Amanda Boorman of the Open Nest, who, between them, have done much to open up this topic and provide some answers. Following on from the conference, Lee has written 2 guest blogs for us, the first here and the second to follow in a week or so. 

We Need To Talk About Restraint – Lee Hollins

Restraint. It’s word that conjures up many images in the minds of many people. Mostly bad, and often in the minds of practitioners working in the field of fostering and adoption. That’s why we need to talk about it. The recent ‘Child to Parent Violence in adoptive and foster families’ conference chaired by Helen was just such an opportunity. Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Discussion

Guest post: Like Father, Like Son

I am pleased to post this guest blog from a parent who would like to be known as Sam. Sam is passionate in her campaigning to get better understanding for women who have experienced domestic abuse. She is active on twitter, and has written previously for other people, as well as managing her own blogsite. X has a story to tell about the impact on children of living wth domestic violence, the way in which this can be replicated by children once the abusive parent has left, and the long term effects of this for all concerned. Her contribution is also pertinent because of findings across the world of the prominence of the experience of domestic abuse as a contributory factor in child to parent violence.

I am a parent who has been subject of child to parent violence (CPV) and a woman who is domestic abuse victim. I am not a professional, but have vast lived experience of abuse. CPV obviously has a number of roots and in this post I will explain from my viewpoint one of them. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Discussion, Family life