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Violence against Grandparents: Finding out more 

I am very pleased to post this information and request from Dr Amanda Holt, who has been instrumental in bringing about wider knowledge and understanding of child (and adolescent) to parent violence. She is now about to begin some research into violence and abuse towards grandparents, from their grandchildren, and is interested to hear from practitioners, and ultimately grandparents, with awareness and experience of this. You can also find a job advertisement for the role of Postdoctoral Research Associate for this project, on the Student page of this website. 

As Helen impressively documents, there is a useful research literature developing on adolescent-to-parent violence/abuse, and this is giving us some insights into who, where, how and perhaps why we are seeing this problem across a range of families. However, there is very little research into violence against grandparents, yet I am hearing from practitioners that many grandparents attend CPV support programmes because they are experiencing violence from their grandchild. Many of these grandparents are involved in kinship care arrangements with their grandchild(ren), whether arranged formally (e.g. through a Special Guardianship Order, for example) or informally. A recent survey of 101 kinship carers in Australia found that nearly half (46%) of carers (the majority of whom were grandparents) reported violent behaviour from the child they were caring for and which, in 89% of cases, was directed towards them. As with CPV, verbal abuse, psychological abuse and physical aggression were all reported and the impacts mirrored those commonly experienced by parents who experience violence from their children: stress, mental health problems, physical health problems, additional family conflicts and social isolation.

However, while there are of course many parallels with CPV, there are other important issues which require consideration. For example, the kinship care relationship may have been unexpected, and grandparents may have complicated feelings about their own caring role. Relationships with the grandchild’s parents may be strained, and the same Australian study cited above found that many of the carers were also coping with violence towards them from the child’s parent(s). The kinship care context often means further structural challenges: we know from research that kinship care households are more likely to experience poverty, and that the child is twice as likely to be experiencing a long-term health problem or disability. The disruptive family context also needs to be taken into account: the most common reasons for the placement are parental mental health problems and/or substance misuse, parental incarceration, child protection concerns (including domestic violence) and parental illness or death. Given this context, supporting the grandparent must also mean supporting the child (and indeed the whole family), both of whom may require support in processing some of these very difficult, and potentially traumatising, sets of circumstances.

Practitioners who are running very effective support groups for CPV have told me that they are concerned that they may not always be responding to grandparents in the best way. What support needs do grandparents have, in addition to the support needs of parents who attend the CPV sessions? How do grandparents feel about coming to the groups? Do they feel alienated from the other parents, given their own special circumstances? And how do grandchildren feel about attending? There may be additional work to do in processing identity roles (“Am I his Mother or his Grandmother?”) and in working through their own complicated feelings towards the child’s parent(s). Perhaps there are ‘generational norms’ that shape how grandparents perceive ‘parenting advice’ that might exacerbate feelings of alienation.

I want to find out more about this issue. This is not only to develop the scholarship in this much marginalised form of family violence, but also to help practitioners to develop best practice for working with this group. I have been funded by the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust to interview grandparents who are (or who have been in the past) experiencing abusive and/or violent  behaviour from their grandchildren. The research project has been approved by the University Ethics Panel and is being overseen by an expert advisory board. I would really like to hear from practitioners who work with any grandparents (even if they just work with one) and who may be willing to share information about this project with the grandparent. I have produced some information flyers that can be distributed to potential grandparent participants that tells them more about the project. Interviews would be face-to-face or over the phone, and at a time to suit the grandparent, and we offer grandparents a £20 shop voucher as a thankyou for their time. Please contact me for any further information, or if you would like to discuss the project.

Contact Amanda by email at her University of Roehampton address.


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Safeguarding in practice?

This post from Michaela Booth comes at just the right time, following nicely from last week’s post. With thanks to National IRO Managers Partnership for bringing it to my attention.


Michaela Movement

Today I had a three-hour lecture on safeguarding children. It was hard, emotional and thought provoking. A three-hour lecture hardly makes me an expert, I know. Nevertheless, it has enabled me to broaden my thinking, my questioning and my understanding of safeguarding, what it means in practice and times in my life that it has failed. We hear of child protection scandals, when cases like Baby P are publicised widely in the media, and rightly so. What we don’t hear about is how so many agencies miss so many issues and for what reasons and how as a society we have so many systems that should have child safeguarding at the forefront of their work, but don’t. From personal experience, this is my take on it….
We touched on interventions from local authorities for children in need. When I was born, I was a child in need. My parents were…

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Child to Parent Violence: Job Opportunity in London

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DVIP currently have a vacancy for a part-time Young People’s Service Practitioner (female only), working across London.

The service offers support and interventions to young people using abuse alongside a parallel support service for parents and partners.

You will primarily work with parents experiencing young people’s abuse to help re-establish safe boundaries within the home and to develop improved family interactions. You will also work with young people.

There are also opportunities for sessional work and volunteering. Full details can be found on the DVIP website.


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Educating the educators – School Governors

I’m very pleased to reblog this first post from a new site by Gareth Marr, about support for adopted children within school. Gareth highlights the early trauma adopted children may have experienced and the impact this has on their behaviour.

Gareth Marr

Welcome to my first blog. I’ve lots to learn on how it all works, (don’t like this font) but thought it best to get some words out and see how it goes. Tips, criticism and hints all will be welcome by this novice.

I’ve plenty to say, especially on the subject of caring for adopted children in schools so expect regular blogs.

Next Wednesday evening I am presenting at a training session on safeguarding for school governors in Windsor and Maidenhead. School governing bodies have had a real shake up under this current government and been heavily criticised for poor performance in many areas. They should set the standards for the school leadership teams to follow but can be often anonymous and ineffective in their role. Did you know that a school governing body should have a governor responsible for safeguarding children? Do you know who yours is? What do…

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Something to celebrate!

This week I celebrate one year of this blog.

When I first became aware of the issue of parent abuse, in the early 80s, we had no idea of what to suggest to help the parent who had approached us. By the time I engaged in some serious research, in 2004-6, there was a small but growing body of knowledge about this aspect of family violence, and a number of programmes had been developed, mostly in Australia, New Zealand and the USA and Canada. A year later, a discussion on parent abuse was one of the items in the BBC’s Woman’s Hour, a flagship radio programme, which goes out 6 days a week. Continue reading


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Dr. Amanda Holt’s forthcoming talk

A reminder about Dr. Amanda Holts seminar: “Youth-to-Parent Abuse: Current Understandings in Research, Policy and Practice“, on Wednesday 2nd May 2012. Please note that this event at the University of Surrey, UK, begins and ends 30 minutes earlier than was first posted – from 15.30 to 17.00.

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Current understandings in research, policy and practice

Staff, students and public are invited to hear Amanda Holt speak at a seminar, “Youth-to-Parent Abuse: Current Understandings in Research, Policy and Practice”, on Wednesday 2nd May 2012. The event will be held at the University of Surrey, UK, from 16.00 to 17.30. Dr Amanda Holt also has an article in the most recent edition of Social Policy and Society, a parent abuse themed issue.

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