Tag Archives: Amanda Holt

An innovative approach to working with adolescent family violence in DuPage County, Illinois

Continuing the series of guest blogs, I am pleased to bring you this from Amanda Holt, information about a service in Illinois for families experiencing adolescent family violence. I was particularly thrilled to hear from Amanda, as I have been contacted a number of times by people in the States asking for pointers and guidance in developing or accessing help. News of the screening tool is very welcome, and I was also very interested in the understanding that girls are coming from different circumstances, with separate needs. Finally, the first responder aspect is one which can hopefully feed in to similar discussions taking place in the UK at present. Please do check out all the links; there is a lot of information here and it will take a while to digest it all, but it brings a new interpretation to the table which many will find helpful I think. Thank you Amanda!


This month marks the tenth anniversary that North East DuPage Family and Youth Services (NEDFYS) (in Illinois, US) ran its first adolescent family violence programme, based on principles from the Step-up programme that was developed by Greg Routt and Lily Anderson in King County, Washington State in 1997. Since that time, 170 families have completed all 21-week sessions and graduated successfully: of these, only 11 (6%) were rearrested for a new offence related to family violence within 12 months after graduation. The programme itself is a collaborative effort between the Juvenile Court Judges, the States Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s office, Northeast DuPage Family and Youth Services and Probation and it emerged from a Models For Change four-year grant that DuPage County received from the MacArthur Foundation beginning in 2006.

Last year I had the privilege of visiting the team in Illinois and observing their innovative work. I was struck by their dedication and commitment to the cause, and also by their extensive knowledge of adolescent family violence and their thirst to keep on learning and develop new ways of working. For example, frustrated that court involvement and detention was not helpful in dealing with cases of adolescent family violence (where there were high rates of re-arrest), the team developed the first screening tool (that I’m aware of) to help them appropriately respond to its different contexts. Published in 2015, the Adolescent Domestic Battery Typology Tool (ADBTT) represents the culmination of a five-year project where the team, with the assistance of research consultants from the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ), reviewed 150 case files from which they developed a set of typologies, which were then subject to a large pilot validation study (details of the development process can be found in the ADBTT manual here, and also here). The ADBTT helps the team to identify who should be diverted from the court, what the level of supervision should be, and what (if any) the out-of-home placement needs are. For each of the ‘types’, safety planning, trauma-informed practices, and family therapy principles that work with the family system as a whole are at the centre of the intervention work. Of course, the tool is not a replacement for thoughtful consideration of each unique family and its needs, but it does offer a useful additional resource for practitioners who need to make difficult decisions about how to support the different families that they encounter.

A second innovation is the Girls Gaining and Growing Project, which specifically looks at developing a treatment protocol for girls who are violent towards family members. The team identified that the girls on their programmes were experiencing incredibly high levels of trauma (in 90%+ of cases) and they found that this was often generational: many of their parents (particularly mothers) were also scoring highly in the pre-programme trauma screening. The team also found some interesting gender differences in the contexts of adolescent family violence – for example, the ‘escalating’ type was very rare in girls, compared with boys. In response, the team developed a specific trauma-informed, gender-responsive intervention for adolescent girls who use violence towards family members. While the programme uses some modified versions of existing interventions, others are original. The team now always screen for trauma-related symptoms (the programme workers use the Trauma Recovery Scale (TRS) prior to any intervention work as they find it so helpful in informing their practice. 

The team have also recently developed a First Responder Protocol for those, particularly the police, who arrive at a crisis situation involving adolescent family violence and require guidance as to how to respond appropriately. Included in their protocol is: i) clear definitions to help first responders identify the violence, ii) a recommendation for the use of a ‘designated’ juvenile police officer to respond appropriately, and iii) a reminder of the importance of applying a developmentally-appropriate, trauma-informed and gender-responsive approach when responding to such families. 

I’m very much looking forward to hearing what the NEDFYS team does next.

For further information, please contact Viv Odell, Associate Director, NEDFYS. Email: vodell@addison-il.org


I very much welcome contributions to this website, and look forward to publishing material from other people engaged in this important work.

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Compassion and responsibility

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 Continue reading

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#CPV: What does it look like, part 2. Intent stuff

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


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Parent Abuse: Gender issues in group work

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

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Adolescent violence in the home: How is it different to adult family violence?

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

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Working with Adolescent Violence and Abuse Towards Parents: book review

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


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Child to parent violence, nothing new under the sun

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.


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