I am pleased to share the synopsis of a recently completed PhD in the area of child to parent violence, sent to me by Dr Alexandra Papamichail, who has been studying at Brighton University.
My qualitative study explored a form of family violence, namely, child-to-parent violence. The aim was to fill a gap in the literature by giving voice to young people whose voices have been marginalised, as well as to professionals who work with them in the UK. I focused on familial relationships and contexts within which young people are embedded, their psychological states and how these are linked with violent behaviour. The work drew on theories of attachment, developmental trauma and family-systems and emerged from a practitioner-researcher perspective within the disciplinary area of developmental psychology and psychopathology.
I conducted participant-observation and interviews with eight young people from two different intervention programmes aiming to tackle violence against parents. In addition, I conducted semi-structured interviews with five professionals. All data were analysed from a critical realist perspective using inductive, thematic analysis.
A detailed account of the findings will be presented soon in a paper currently in preparation (Papamichail, 2018). The commonalities with developmental trauma are underlined; similarly, the commonalities with the characteristics of “borderline personality disorder (BPS)”1 are addressed for the first time in the UK (Papamichail, 2018). My study fills the gap of psychologically informed research in the UK as well as the gap of the literature regarding young people’s perspectives. It problematises the current practice in the field and suggests a new synthesis informed by tailored interventions, attachment and trauma theory, upon which evidence-based interventions may be based.
1 In alignment with the guidelines of the Division of Clinical Psychology of the British Psychological Society (2015) regarding the language used in relation to functional psychiatric diagnoses, I have chosen to demonstrate my scepticism toward the usefulness of terms such as “borderline personality disorder” by placing them in parentheses (British Psychological Society 2015, p. 3).
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
At the end of 2016, Al Coates and Dr Wendy Thorley put out a survey to start exploring families’ experiences of child to parent violence, particularly within the adopter community. I was pleased to publicise it, and have since shared the reports (here and also available on the CEL&T website) which were generated from their enquiries. While it was acknowledged that there was nothing ground-breakingly new in their findings, the work was important in opening up the discussion and allowing it to move into a broader range of meetings and departments. Whether as a coincidence or a direct result, the last year did see significant increases in the open acknowledgement of this issue. Continue reading
Sixty years of child-to-parent abuse research: What we know and where to go, is available on line from this month, and is published in the January / February 2018 volume of the journal, Aggression and Violent Behaviour. Simmons, McEwan, Purcell and Ogloff found over 9900 English language peer reviewed articles up to December 2016 through various searches; and their paper reviews 84 specific references. After some discussion about definitions and terminology, they consider the shortcomings of existing reviews, specifically their frequent basis in a single theoretical framework, as well as the problems of reliability of much of the data, and go on to propose a more integrated understanding with knowledge from different disciplines. Continue reading
An interesting read from the University of Granada – and a potential discussion starter!
In the UK we seem to have settled on phraseology around variations of Child to Parent Violence/Abuse, though this in itself does not fully cover abuse in family groupings such as fostering, kinship care or even residential settings.
There is similarly room for discussion around the gendered nature of the abuse, and I am sure a number of people will have comments to make on this.
However, I cannot personally comment on the situation in Spain, and I am happy to accept that different cultural patterns of child rearing and family life around the world will impact on the way this aspect of family violence plays out.
Worth following the links though for some further reading as well.
Please note that the text of the research paper itself is Spanish.
Calling all academics and practitioners, working in the field of Violence Prevention …..
The Centre for Violence Prevention 2018 Annual Conference takes place at the University of Worcester on 4th – 5th June 2018, with the title: Violence Prevention at the Intersections of Identity and Experience. Abstracts are invited on a range of topics, including child to parent violence. Continue reading
I am very aware when writing and collating material for training purposes, that while we have significant contributions from parents affected by abuse and violence from their children, there is much less attention given to the voices of the young people concerned.
We are not without this completely. Interventions such as Break4Change specifically video young people as part of the programme, using their voices as part of a conversation with parents. Some of this material has been available in training and research reports. Television shows, such as My Violent Child, have at times included direct interviewing of the young person concerned. Books such as Anger is my Friend mediate the teenage voice though years of practice experience. Research reports may include testimony from young people, though often it will be as reported or interpreted by their parent. But Barbara Cottrell is unusual in devoting a whole chapter to the actual teenage voice in her book: When Teens Abuse Their Parents. Continue reading