A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a colleague about our separate work around child to parent violence (CPV). As we rounded things up, a third person, who had been listening in, asked if they might make a comment. They told of a friend’s difficulties with their child, and commented that they had not thought about it in these terms before. I wasn’t surprised. Almost without fail, when I talk about my interest and work, whether at a conference, a party, to someone I know or a complete stranger, someone will seek me out later – ask for my contact details, request a private conversation, or perhaps share their own experience there and then. Barbara Cottrell first recorded this same experience in her book, When Teens Abuse their Parents. I have heard of similar experiences when a media outlet has covered this or another aspect of family violence. Suddenly there is much to-ing and fro-ing in the corridors, as reporters or other staff find someone safe to disclose their concerns to.
But more than this. I have been at gatherings where I have looked round and easily identified 10% of the group who have already confided in me. Yet the other 90% of people there may not be aware of the difficulties they face, for all manner of reasons. We know there are many things that cause parents to hold back The overwhelming shame of their experience may mean that they feel unable to broach the issue even with a best friend. The minimising as it becomes the norm may mean that families do not recognise their experience as abusive. They may fear the opprobrium of others, or a backlash from their child. They may believe there is nothing anyone can do anyway.
We still don’t have a definitive idea of the prevalence of child to parent violence and abuse. The figure of 10% is one which is regularly offered. It comes from a number of places, dating back to the early ‘counting’ in the US. Various research studies have suggested that it offers the best figure we have. Some (eg Gallagher) have questioned whether 10% is too high, including too broad a definition. Others (Routt and Anderson) suggest that the figures we have represent only the tip of the iceberg and so the likely number is much higher. Certainly, within some vulnerable group (such as adopters) the incidence has been suggested to be much greater.
All of which leads me to the conclusions that 1) the experience of violence and abuse from a child to parent is more widespread than we realise, and 2) most people know someone experiencing CPV even if they are not aware of it. There are many people working to make this part of every day conversation. It is incumbent upon us to create an environment where people feel safe to come forward; where they can be assured of an understanding and empathetic ear; and where timely and proper support is available.
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
Please allow me a moment of self-indulgence as I celebrate 5 years of this website, Holes in the Wall, ‘born’ in May 2011 out of a desire to make a contribution to the understanding of children’s violence to parents, known sometimes as parent abuse. As a present to myself I have ordered shiny new postcards to leave with people at conferences and events, explaining how ‘Holes’ came about and how you can be part of the community!
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
Over the last few months I have been conscious that this blog has focused very much on events in the UK, with some coverage of Australia and the US and little from elsewhere. But I am also aware that the readership spreads right across the world; and so I would like to try to bring some broader content to “balance” things out a little. I know that there is important work going on in many other countries, from reading bibliographies and from following news and events, through colleagues attending international conferences as well as from a google alert.
In this post I want to bring together some information regarding work on child to parent violence (CPV) in Spain. I would value any comments or contributions on this to further expand my knowledge. Similarly, I hope that practitioners and researchers from around the world will take the time to let us know what is going on where they are. We can all be encouraged in hearing of the progress and developments of others. Continue reading
An excellent training day in Bournemouth on Tuesday, attended by around 70 practitioners from around the Bournemouth and Poole area. Eddie Gallagher presented findings from his extensive research into child to parent violence (CPV). Lots of thought about the issue of parent blaming and specific reference to his Who’s in Charge Groups, a programme that he has developed in Melbourne, Australia. The group for parents runs for 8 weeks, with a ninth follow-up session, and aims to bring about a decrease in CPV, and improvement in family relationships, as parents start to become more assertive. Eddie also counsels both parents and teens as individuals – and occasionally together if they agree! Continue reading