It would be so much easier if we could point to one clear cause of violence and abuse from children towards their parents. Once that was made obvious we could then wheel in bespoke solutions and solve the crisis in an instant. Sadly the reality is much different, with almost no end to the factors that might increase vulnerability, and often layer upon layer of complexity for families affected. Some situations get a (relatively) large amount of coverage: exposure to domestic violence and early childhood trauma for instance. Others are highlighted less often. While each family’s experience will be unique to them, there is much to learn from the experience of others, and the despair that is common to parents across the board.
Recently, Keri Williams posted on her blog a review of an HBO documentary, A Dangerous Son, a film about families with sons who have disorders giving rise to explosive and violent behaviour. (The trailer is available here if you are not in the US.) Psychology today also has a review of the film, and in interview with the featured parents. Both draw attention to the blog written by Liza Long shortly after the Sandy Hook tragedy, Thinking the Unthinkable, which inspired the Director of the documentary, Liz Garbus.
The 90-minute film features three mothers who struggle immensely to find proper help for their emotionally disturbed sons. Audience members who had never dealt with children facing severe mental illness described the piece as heartbreaking and difficult to watch. However, parents of mentally ill children displayed a very different reaction; they felt a sense of validation and hope. They believe that this film could serve as the first major step in changing the public’s judgmental perception of children with mental illness and their families. Parents should be supported, rather than shamed, by their communities. (Psychology Today)
The hope is that the film draws attention to the needs of families for help, the misunderstandings around childhood mental health, the paucity of provision for young people, and the difficulties in accessing help.
Keri invites comments on her blog in response to her post. As always, you are welcome to join in the conversation here as well.
If you’ve not come across child to parent violence before; if you don’t know anyone affected; it’s easy to misread the signs. Sadly, we have come to accept that adults can experience intimate partner violence. Folk may not all fully understand what is going on and why, but they get that it happens. So when you hear shouting and screaming noises through the wall from the neighbours, or when you see bruises, it would be natural to draw that conclusion.
Watch the video «A Home For Maisie» uploaded by wynharlow on Dailymotion.
I know I’ve banged on about adoption for quite a lot of the time recently, and I need to be reminded that there are so many other families also experiencing violence and abuse from their children. And I also know that each family is unique, even when apparently following a similar path. There is no violence and abuse competition. For each family at the time the violence and abuse is too awful and it is a struggle to get through it.
Having said all of that, I do want to bring this video to your attention because it is so informative about the effect of early trauma, and the way that violence plays out, affecting so many people in its wake. It is long, but be prepared to watch all of it for the joy at the end!
I have recently come across the following resources, that may be of interest or use in work with parent abuse.
With Meerkat Brain, Jane Evans offers an easily digestible explanation of the neuroscience of why individuals are not always able to respond to instruction or reproof, and why traumatised children will need particular understanding and care. This is one of a number of similar models of brain operation, but one that people are reporting to be especially helpful.
Secondly, This video will change you in exactly 60 seconds, from BVC Network with thanks to Laurie Reid who brought it to my attention. Clearly there are many influences in a child’s life and no straightforward causal link between parent and child opinions or behaviour, but anyone who has watched a child teetering on high heels, following round with a dustpan and brush, or picking up a briefcase to head off “to work”, will attest to the power of imitation. Furthermore, previous exposure to, or the witnessing of, domestic violence is known to be the most frequent single issue in the background of families where children are violent to parents.
I’ll take the opportunity to link again to an animation from AVITH, which gives a very accessible overview of adolescent violence in the home for use with parents particularly, but would be helpful for anyone wanting to learn more. The film was made for use in Australia so the final advice may not be directly applicable to other situations. You can download it on the front page of the website.
Please do comment with other video resources which you have found and would like to share as useful in thinking about parent abuse or adolescent violence in the home.
I have written in the past about the Peninsula Health ‘Adolescent Violence in the Home’ project in Victoria, Australia, which has been running for the last two years.
This week I was sent details of the website which has been developed as part of the work, and which gives a link to an animation which clearly and succinctly lays out what is understood about adolescent violence in the home. The film is Australia-specific in that it refers to particular services, but could otherwise be used very successfully as an introduction to the issue for professionals or families.
A final research report should be available in February 2014.
I am grateful to the Peninsula Health team for making the material available and for permission to link to it here.
This post updated 18th January 2017 with new website link
Another moving video about parent abuse, this one from Joey Chan in Hong Kong.
Chan calls for a comprehensive solution based on three steps:
* Encouraging more parental care and communication
* Governmental support including counselling and psychological services
* Law enforcement as an extreme resort
This video of the official launch of the research project based at Brighton University was posted on YouTube on May 9th this year. It’s an hour and a quarter long but worth watching, or dipping into, for a flavour of the project’s aims, the current situation in the partner countries and more detail about the two intervention methods being assessed: Non-violent Resistance and the Break4Change model. The title of the post comes from a parent interviewed for a short film, shown within the video, and certainly the theme of hope is one which comes through strongly throughout. Continue reading