On Monday night the BBC aired Responsible Child, a drama, based on a true story, directed by Nick Holt. The programme had been heavily trailed, and so it is not offering too many spoilers to say that twelve year old Ray, the main character, is involved in the murder of his stepfather, and the story follows his trial in the adult court in the context of his early life. Children’s services and education do not come out of it particularly well. Rather the compassionate responses are those of the legal team and a particular member of staff at the secure unit where Ray finally ends up.
What we are shown is a deeply empathetic young man, trying to care for his mother and young siblings and devoted to his elder brother, his thoughts and concerns always for someone other than himself. We are encouraged to consider how much his previous experiences should determine our responses to him. Should he be in an adult court at all? How much did he really understand what he was doing? And how does our growing understanding of brain development – particularly the parts that govern thinking and reasoning, forward planning and impulse control – affect our thinking about this issue?
Why am I writing about this here, when the drama is so clearly not about a young person’s violence and abuse towards their parent in the way we have come to think about CPV?
- Firstly, the most important challenge of the drama is about how we construct a young person’s understanding and intent, and that is a theme that does come up again and again within child to parent violence.
- Next there is a reminder of the harm caused to children and young people living with domestic violence and abuse.
- As we are encouraged to question whether the age of criminal responsibility in Britain is too low, it’s worth thinking about both of these in terms of the debate about lowering the age at which young people come within the Domestic Abuse legislation.
- And finally a challenge to us all in the way we see and care for children and young people.
It’s nearly the end of the year, we’re all tired, I’m not going to unpack it any more than that now; just to thank everyone for your amazing commitment to the cause, and your insights and work throughout 2019. Many people are profoundly grateful to you!
If you are interested in reading further, Kathleen Heide has written extensively about children who kill their parents (here and here ), and Amanda Holt has more recently examined the overlap with child to parent violence, and with adult-child to parent violence and parricide. (here and here )
Responsible Child is available to view on iPlayer until 15th January 2020.
Filed under Discussion, TV
One of the issues that makes it difficult for us all to talk about child to parent violence and abuse is the fact that there is no one agreed definition. The one I tend to use when speaking to people is that proposed by Amanda Holt:
“A pattern of behaviour, instigated by a child or young person, which involves using verbal, financial, physical and /or emotional means to practice power and exert control over a parent”, and “the power that is practised is, to some extent, intentional, and the control that is exerted over a parent is achieved through fear, such that a parent unhealthily adapts his / her own behaviour to accommodate the child.” Continue reading
Not a very snappy headline I’ll grant you but the alternative was too cheesey – “Keeping gender on the agenda”. Yeah, I know…..
While there are a small number of studies that have found little difference between the violence and abuse from young women and young men towards their parents, the general accumulation of research seems to point otherwise, and it is likely that this discrepancy can be accounted for by the type of survey, the type of data examined, the particular expression of violence or abuse, or the ages of the young people involved. Eddie Gallagher has a chapter on gender in his commentary on the literature regarding child to parent violence, and he confirms the experience of those involved in clinical practice or the legal world, as well as recent research in Oxford and Brighton, that boys are three or four more times as likely to be involved in CPV than are girls. This difference is most markedly shown as the age increases, and the level of violence worsens. This is not to deny that many girls and young women are extremely violent and abusive towards their parents; and Gallagher also suggests that their levels of violence may be increasing. Continue reading
This article was originally published on the Australian Government website: Australian Institute of Family Studies, Child and Family Community Australia on December 8th 2015.
Jo Howard describes the issue of adolescent violence in the home, and how it differs to adult family violence.
Adolescent violence in the home has many similarities to family violence, but there are some key differences.
Adolescents who abuse their parents use similar strategies to violent men to gain control and power. They often coerce, threaten and intimidate, destroy property and possessions and physically assault their parents. Global research indicates most victims are mothers and most offenders are males – a gendered presentation similar to adult family violence (Howard 2011). However, female adolescents are also offenders and fathers and other family relatives may be victims. Continue reading
With many papers and now two books to her name, Amanda Holt is a leading voice in the field of adolescent to parent violence and abuse (APVA), not just in the UK, but also around the world. APVA is a small but developing field, where networking provides a key method of information exchange, and it was through discussions with other academics and practitioners that the idea for this book was born. Working with Adolescent Violence and Abuse Towards Parents: Approaches and contexts for intervention explores both the different theoretical bases and approaches to the work, and the very different contexts in which it takes place. Continue reading
An article from the Independent newspaper from 1995 was brought to my attention by a tweet from Amanda Holt. The piece, “He’s my son. I love him. But he beats me up“, demonstrates that CPV is far from a new phenomenon, that even 20 years ago there was evidence of children as young as 8 years old involved – and that the connection with intimate partner violence for many families was recognised. In fact it brings together neatly the impact on daily lives as families try to avoid anyone knowing what is going on, the humiliation of having to ask for help, and each woman’s belief that she is the only one involved because of the secrecy around the issue.
Thankfully there is now help available at any earlier stage – but parents may still struggle to find the understanding and support they need close to home.
I believe the legislation mentioned here, the Family Homes and Domestic Violence Bill, was enacted in Northern Ireland, but not in England and Wales.
As a comprehensive introduction to child to parent abuse, and guidance for professionals, a booklet from the North East Hampshire Domestic Abuse Forum and Safer North Hampshire is very a very welcome addition to the shelves. Published in June 2014, it popped up through a google alert just this week. The booklet is downloadable from the North East Hampshire Domestic Abuse Forum website, (information booklet for practitioners about child to parent abuse). Further resources will shortly be available in the form of an eagerly awaited new book, edited by Amanda Holt: Working with Adolescent Violence and Abuse Towards Parents. The book offers information about both well-established approaches and programmes, including theoretical frameworks and toolkits; and examples of innovative practice.