Tag Archives: child to parent abuse

CPA by any other name…

I have always welcomed guest posts on this blog, and so it was good to be able to invite Michelle John of PEGS to contribute to our mutual learning and understanding of the issues. Michelle is the Founding Director of PEGS, and has the rare combination of a background in domestic abuse advocacy, lived experience, and the willingness and ability to speak up for her fellow parents. Michelle and her team support hundreds of parents impacted by CPA, alongside delivering impactful training for organisations such as police forces and local authorities, campaigning nationally for policy change, undertaking speaking engagements and raising awareness of the issue.

When it comes to describing abuse directed towards a parent, carer or guardian, there are so many phrases in circulation. While to some extent, what we call the abuse is secondary to the action we are taking to reduce it and support those impacted by the issue, it is important that we use words which don’t lead to misconceptions.

When I set up PEGS, myself and my team made the decision to refer to CPA or Child to Parent Abuse. At the time, this was at odds with the definition of ‘Adolescent to Parent Violence or Abuse (APVA)’ used in Home Office guidance and other professional literature. But the crux of our decision was the potential of shunning the majority of parents if we promoted that our services were for those experiencing APVA. An adolescent is a person aged 13 to 18. By contrast, you are always your parents’ child – whether you are 1 or 51. Finding organisations set up to support them, and then taking the leap of actually asking for the help they need, is incredibly difficult for all parents impacted by CPA; with that in mind, we wanted to make sure our language was as inclusive as possible so we didn’t put off anyone whose child had either not yet entered their teen years or had already reached adulthood.

The results of our first parental survey – undertaken in November 2020 – back up the general consensus that many cases of CPA start well before the teen years. More than half of our families had started experiencing abusive or violent behaviour when their child was aged 12 or below – and a significant number had children who were just 5 when the CPA began. We’re currently mid-way through our second survey so the results haven’t yet been collated, but looking at the data from the responses we have so far supports the fact that CPA really is happening within all types of families.

We know that CPA is under-reported (and historically under-researched) so it’s really important for all of us involved in campaigning, supporting and/or researching collectively eradicate this perception that the problem is limited to a handful of teenage boys being physically abusive. Both research and anecdotal evidence are beginning to build up a picture of every single type of family being impacted by CPA.

Even if their child is not tall enough or strong enough to physically overpower them, CPA takes many forms and coercion, threats, stealing and many other types of abuse are not restricted by the size or force of the person displaying the behaviours (or the person on the receiving end). 

That’s why at PEGS, we’ll continue to use the term Child to Parent Abuse and encourage others to do so, too.

Many thanks Michelle, for your insights and your support for families. We look forward to further posts from her in the future.
If you would like to contribute anything, whether from your work or experience, learning or practice, please do get in touch!

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A New Documentary about #CPVA

Capa First Response, a support and advice organisation helping families and professionals impacted by child to parent abuse, has recently been in talks with a production company to produce a documentary about child to parent violence and abuse.

This project wants to hear from any families willing to share their stories around this issue, in particular any families where the behaviour is now historic and your relationship with your child has improved. We are also looking to speak with families where the behaviour is ongoing and you would be willing to talk about this. The project is not trying to recreate a fly on the wall documentary but  look at why this behaviour happens, how it presents itself, the difficulties parents face when it comes to friends, families and authorities.
If you are interested please email Capa UK for more information.

You will be aware that there have been a number of television programmes in recent years which have centred on children’s violence towards their parents. Some of these have been more sympathetic than others, largely depending on the aims of the producers and the “story” they have chosen to tell. Understandably there is great reluctance to expose painful and very personal situations in this way, and to potentially create a document that is there to view for the rest of your and your child’s life. Sometimes it is possible to remain anonymous, for the producers to use actors or for faces to be pixellated out. Sometimes producers are keen to show “actual families” to make the story “more convincing” – but it also depends on what the story is. I have personally met with researchers who are very aware of the issues and want to make something that is not sensationalist. Sometimes these initial ideas come to nothing, Sometimes they move forward slowly!

I will always advise parents to think very carefully before committing to anything like this. To ensure they have considered all the implications and that they have proper support in place. Nevertheless, it must be an individual decision and so I continue to publicise requests when they land in my in-tray, particularly if they come from people I know and trust.

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Child to parent abuse: a literature review

Sixty years of child-to-parent abuse research: What we know and where to go, is available on line from this month, and is published in the January / February 2018 volume of the journal, Aggression and Violent Behaviour. Simmons, McEwan, Purcell and Ogloff found over 9900 English language peer reviewed articles up to December 2016 through various searches; and their paper reviews 84 specific references. After some discussion about definitions and terminology, they consider the shortcomings of existing reviews, specifically their frequent basis in a single theoretical framework, as well as the problems of reliability of much of the data, and go on to propose a more integrated understanding with knowledge from different disciplines. Continue reading

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Child to parent abuse: “The pointy end of entitlement”

The Australian media have offered considerable coverage of child to parent violence and abuse over the last year, as conferences have taken place, reports have been published, or police figures made public. But the most recent piece,  about this in the Sydney Morning Herald, was more disappointing in depicting an inevitable new world order of weak, ineffective parents and controlling, over-entitled children. Testimony from parents was matched by commentary from psychologists and educators, all stressing the changing environment and culture that young people grow up in today, and predicting mental health problems to come as this generation matures to adulthood. Continue reading

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Child to Parent Abuse: some new resources for professionals

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. Child to Parent Abuse Booklet June 2014-2 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.

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Child to parent violence and abuse: a legal question

In March 2013, the UK government extended the definition of domestic violence and abuse, to include coercive control and to capture those affected by peer teen abuse in the 16 and 17 year old age group; a response to growing evidence of the prevalence of abuse in that group. Amid the celebration at the time, there was discussion about how this would impact those working in the field of child to parent abuse. Alongside a positive response to the recognition that violence and abuse takes place in relationships outside of those most widely recognised, concerns were raised about the importance of maintaining a safeguarding mindset when working in this field. Continue reading

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Lazy reporting could not spoil an opportunity to discuss parent abuse

This started off as a weary rant from me today and then changed tone as the day progressed!

While it has been exciting and encouraging to see the increase in coverage of child to parent violence and abuse in the media over the last week, I have been disappointed yet again by the tone of some of the pieces and the apparent laziness of reporting.

Times headline

The main headline in the Times, (you may not be able to read the next line, “Families cannot deal with minor domestic rows”)  today picks up on the report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary into the welfare of vulnerable people in police custody, which has held centre stage across the media today. This highlights the often inappropriate use of custody for individuals experiencing poor mental health, or other vulnerabilities, because of a crisis in other support services; and while researchers have said that the findings show pressures faced by many families and carers, and the fact that the police are often used as the agency of last resort, the first example given – thus setting the tone – is of a dispute over a TV remote control. Other examples are given of greater severity of risk and violence. Parents are described as contacting the police because they reach breaking point. But there is no exploration of this issue in a wider way, other than to suggest lone women are finding it particularly difficult to bring up children. Continue reading

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Understanding parent abuse within a child protection framework

We hear a lot about the cross-over between domestic abuse and child to parent violence (CPV), but significantly less about how CPV is to be understood within a child abuse and protection framework. This is an area of work dear to my own heart, and one that has also been the focus of some research in the Netherlands. Recently Dutch researcher, Dr Remy Vink, was tweeting about a conference she had attended, and she kindly agreed to be interviewed about it for the blog.

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