Category Archives: Research

London Mayor welcomes ground breaking report into CAPVA

Over the years there have been a number of studies investigating the issue of child to parent violence within defined geographical regions, sometimes in response to specific incidents (Northumbria for instance) and sometimes commissioned by a particular body (this work in Lancashire for instance). In 2013 Condry and Miles published the first major work in the UK, which took as the main source the Metropolitan Police data over a 1 year period. 

Each of these have shed light on our knowledge and understanding of particular aspects of this issue. However, the London VRU report, “Comprehensive needs assessment of Child/Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse in London”, launched last week and welcomed by the Mayor of London is the first to offer a comprehensive examination of the prevalence and characteristics of child / adolescent to parent violence and abuse (CAPVA*) within the capital, and to scope out the help available for families affected by this form of violence and abuse.

The comprehensive needs assessment was commissioned to explore the scale and nature of CAPVA in London, to ensure services and support for children, young people and families is grounded in evidence. The research findings will inform the VRU’s public health approach to violence prevention and reduction in London and, specifically, to the development of a Pan-London strategic approach to CAPVA in the coming years. 

The research, authored by Prof. Iain Brennan, Natasha Burnley, Matthew Cutmore, Dr Amanda Holt, Johnny Lillis, Jo Llewellyn, Shona MacLeod, Malika Shah, Rebecca Van Zanten, and Letizia Vicentini, and which took place between December 2020 and October 2021, included a literature review, analysis of data from the MPS and the Crime Survey for England and Wales, interviews with strategic stakeholders and a number of parents / carers and young people, as well as the involvement of a Community Advisory Group. The full report is available to read here

The research, and the response from the Mayor’s office, received significant coverage throughout the UK press, and around the world. (see for instance the Guardian report, Children and Young People Now, and ITV)

London has very far from a homogeneous population, with great disparities of wealth and circumstances across boroughs as well as within them, hindering a full understanding of the significance of some factors under investigation. Yet as in many other situations, it reflects the picture across the country in terms of the difficulties in finding help, which may be available to a family in one street and not in the next, because of boundaries and differences in training and funding.

For those already involved in work within this field, the main findings of the report will not hold surprises, and I do not intend to go over these here – please do read the report to get the full flavour. But it is to be applauded for its breadth, and for the series of recommendations (below). We also welcome the subsequent commitments made by the Mayor as part of his wider strategy to combat violence within the capital. 

  1. Establish the variation in terminology and definitions of CAPVA used by different statutory services and VCS organisations to inform the development of statutory guidance on CAPVA.
  2. Promote an understanding of CAPVA both as form of domestic abuse, as well as potentially symptomatic of other child protection/safeguarding issues such as extra-familial harm as well as exposure to abuse and violence in the family home. 
  3. Statutory guidance on CAPVA to support the development of a longitudinal dataset on the incidence of CAPVA. 
  4. Support all services to identify CAPVA and develop more specialist expertise in understanding the dynamics of CAPVA. 
  5. Encourage tailored responses to CAPVA which recognise the complex dynamics between parent and child and other family members. 
  6. Raise and embed awareness and understanding of CAPVA as a form of domestic abuse distinct from intimate-partner violence. 
  7. Facilitate greater multi-agency collaboration on CAPVA cases and consider the development of a multi-agency information sharing forum, including a review of existing forums for effectiveness & appropriateness, for professionals to discuss high-risk cases. 
  8. Train and develop CAPVA champions in each London borough’s children’s social care / safeguarding team. 
  9. Ensure pan-London coverage of CAPVA specific services for both parents and children/young people by establishing a central ‘helpline’. 
  10. Commission independent evaluation which examines the existing intervention models used to respond to CAPVA across London. 

The importance of developing a joined-up, multi-agency understanding and response to CAPVA cannot be stressed enough, and has been called for over many years, not least by families themselves. The possibility of funding for a central helpline, to both advise and direct families and practitioners, would also be a key win and foundational in building an effective, evidence-based service. Many of those involved in this research are themselves already key players in understanding, promoting awareness, and delivering support to families, and so this comprehensive set of recommendations carries the weight of many years of struggle as well as the specific findings of this research. They represent a logical journey towards a full and effective response to a problem which is finally emerging from the shadows, and receiving the attention it so badly deserves. There are many ready and waiting to implement the recommendations given the opportunity and funding. We look forward to seeing the words of the Mayor coming to fruition. 

*Use of the term CAPVA within this report was a deliberate decision formed through consultation with the CAG.

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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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Research priorities

I was chatting to someone recently and we were pondering the next direction for research in the field of child to parent violence and abuse. We are not without guidance in this respect. Most reports and papers conclude with recommendations, including further research needed to fill gaps in knowledge and understanding, and in the development of good practice.

Indeed, in the recent rapid literature review for the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s Office (here and here), Victoria Baker and I made a number of proposals for the way forward, with eight separate research priorities which can be summarised as follows: 1) establishing a nationally agreed terminology, 2) collecting robust data, 3) longitudinal research looking at the long term implications including “cost to society”, 4) a focus on young people’s experiences and perspectives, 5) how the experience and presentation of CPV is affected by the intersection of different identifying factors and situations, 6) high risk cases and those involving sexualised behaviour and abuse, 7) robust examination of context, and 8) the impact of COVID-19 for families and support services.

Also recently, I came across this document from the Victorian Government in Australia, laying out priorities for work in family violence, including adolescent violence in the home (AVITH), with a focus around developing a deeper understanding regarding the drivers and types of adolescent family violence and effective responses. Importantly here, there are questions to be asked about the possibility of better early identification and intervention, the impact on adolescents themselves, as well as new emerging forms of abuse and links with other forms of abusive behaviour.

Compared to where we were ten years ago, we have made huge strides in analysis and understanding; in the collection of data and its use in the development of responses; in exploring motivations and challenging stereotypes. But there is still a long way to go, and significant gaps remain in the way we have examined this issue. Thankfully there is also hugely more work taking place in this field, in the UK and across the world.

There are currently 2 requests for help with research in the UK that I am aware of. Giulia Pintus at Middlesex University, hopes to find 2 more participants for her work with mothers of children aged 6 – 12, expressing aggressive behaviour towards them; and Anu Adebogun at Oxford University has just started recruiting for her important work with black mothers experiencing “difficult, abusive or violent behaviour” from their child or adolescent. If you can help by passing on the information in these requests, I am sure the researchers would be immensely grateful.

If you are engaged in research in this field and would like your work to be included on the Research page of this website, you are welcome to contact me.

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Opening up the issue of abuse from children over the age 16

Following on from my last post, and in one of those pleasingly serendipitous moments, it was great to hear the announcement this week from Professor Nicola Graham-Kevan and team at UCLancs, who have been researching child to parent domestic abuse from children over the age of 16, in conjunction with the Lancashire Constabulary and Lancashire Violence Reduction Unit, in a Home Office funded project: Understanding Child to Parent Domestic Abuse in Lancashire.

Aiming to form distinct typologies of child to parent domestic abuse, the team used a systematic literature review and examined recorded domestic abuse cases over the 26 month period from November 2018 to February 2021. They found that over 10% involved abuse from a child towards a parent, a figure which is thought probably to be underestimate because of reluctance to contact the police in such circumstances, and issues around the way such abuse is interpreted. Indeed there is a suggestion that incidence may be on the increase because of changing demographics. Also significant was the range of issues identified, including neuro-diversity, mental health diagnoses and substance use, which led to the suggestion that this is far from straightforward in terms of our understanding of such abuse.

Recommendations include the development of a more nuanced form of assessment tools recognising the specific issues around abuse from child to parent, followed by a set of interventions that take this relationship into account.

This is the first part of the research project and the second phase, which takes a longitudinal approach and examines the profile of those using abusive behaviours, is expected later in the year. You can download the first report here, and listen to a discussion about the research on Woman’s Hour here. (41.35- 52.20).

It is tremendously encouraging to see this new aspect of CPA being investigated, opening up further our understanding of the complexities of family relationships; and to see how this is very much a topic for discussion within the media, promoting greater awareness and understanding.

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Adolescent to parent violence – hearing from the young people themselves.

Exploring adolescent violence and abuse towards parents: the experiences and perceptions of young people, Victoria Baker. A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Central Lancashire, August 2021.

Much work exploring child and adolescent to parent abuse comments on the difficulties inherent in hearing from the young people themselves, skewing the literature towards an interpretation of the phenomenon through a particular lens. Sometimes parents feel uncomfortable putting their children forward, sometimes agencies express concern that it would be inappropriate or potentially damaging, sometimes ethical factors around risk preclude the involvement of these voices in research. As a result, there is a focus on the point of view of parents and practitioners, and an important aspect of understanding and analysis has been absent up to now.

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Research into child to parent violence and abuse in London

I have been asked by Amanda Holt to post this request for practitioners based in London to consider taking part in an important research project. The surge in interest in child to parent violence and abuse over the last year has been truly impressive, and this research, commissioned by the London Violence Reduction Unit, seeks to move beyond interest to understanding, and then hopefully on to provision.

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What works in CPV?

Just leaving this with you: an excerpt from the CSC Innovation Programme Newsletter of November 2020 which has just dropped in to my inbox, on the publication of the final Innovation Programme and Partners in Practice Evaluation Report. The Innovation Programme has been running since 2014, to test and share new ways of working with vulnerable children and young people. It is the intention of the Department for Education, that the findings should inform future practice, policy and funding decisions. Continue reading

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Abuse and Violence from Adult Children

An article in the Guardian this last weekend was picked up by the BBC PM programme yesterday; a piece of research into the phenomenon of the Boomerang Generation, young adults returning to live with their parents, or in fact never leaving the family home. Katherine Hill, senior research associate at the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University, reported that they found

Nearly two-thirds of childless single adults aged 20-34 in the UK have either never left or have moved back into the family home because of a combination of a precarious job market and low wages, sky-high private sector rents and life shocks such as relationship breakups. Around 3.5 million single young adults in the UK are estimated to live with their parents, an increase of a third over the past decade, and a trend that is likely to accelerate as the economic and social impact of the coronavirus pandemic deepens.

The BBC segment focused very much on the positives of this trend – for both sides – as well as the different cultural expectations within some families; but also drew attention to the fact that some families would find it much more difficult where financial constraints or size of accommodation were an issue. Continue reading

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Lockdown brings differential impacts regarding #CPV, but the need for a strategic response is greater still

One of the remarkable things about Lockdown globally has been the speed with which researchers have been able to shed important light on the impact of the COVID pandemic, whether in terms of education, mental health, domestic abuse – and not to forget child and adolescent to parent violence – with a view to developing future policy and practice. The spectre of future resurgences, and lockdowns forces us all to reconsider how we go about supporting individuals and families in this new world-order where face to face contact may not be possible, and where we have significant catching up to do still in the delivery of services in different ways.

Today saw the publication of a fast-evidence project from Dr Rachel Condry and Dr Caroline Miles looking at the experiences of child and adolescent to parent violence in the COVID-19 pandemic, both in terms of the experience of abuse itself, and in terms of the support available. The researchers obtained personal testimony from parents and practitioners through the use of on-line surveys, and looked at police data obtained through FOI requests to support their findings. This work builds on their ground breaking research of 2013 which looked at Metropolitan police data over the course of a year. Continue reading

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Violence to grandparents in kinship care roles

The show must go on as they say, and so the launch of findings from a research project investigating violence towards grandparents took place this week with all the requisite fanfare – but online rather than as originally envisaged! Perhaps it is a metaphor for the situation experienced by the 27 grandparents interviewed for this study by Dr Amanda Holt and Dr Jenny Birchall, in that their life had taken a sudden and often dramatic change of course with the arrival of the grandchildren they were caring for. Continue reading

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