It would be so much easier if we could point to one clear cause of violence and abuse from children towards their parents. Once that was made obvious we could then wheel in bespoke solutions and solve the crisis in an instant. Sadly the reality is much different, with almost no end to the factors that might increase vulnerability, and often layer upon layer of complexity for families affected. Some situations get a (relatively) large amount of coverage: exposure to domestic violence and early childhood trauma for instance. Others are highlighted less often. While each family’s experience will be unique to them, there is much to learn from the experience of others, and the despair that is common to parents across the board.
Recently, Keri Williams posted on her blog a review of an HBO documentary, A Dangerous Son, a film about families with sons who have disorders giving rise to explosive and violent behaviour. (The trailer is available here if you are not in the US.) Psychology today also has a review of the film, and in interview with the featured parents. Both draw attention to the blog written by Liza Long shortly after the Sandy Hook tragedy, Thinking the Unthinkable, which inspired the Director of the documentary, Liz Garbus.
The 90-minute film features three mothers who struggle immensely to find proper help for their emotionally disturbed sons. Audience members who had never dealt with children facing severe mental illness described the piece as heartbreaking and difficult to watch. However, parents of mentally ill children displayed a very different reaction; they felt a sense of validation and hope. They believe that this film could serve as the first major step in changing the public’s judgmental perception of children with mental illness and their families. Parents should be supported, rather than shamed, by their communities. (Psychology Today)
The hope is that the film draws attention to the needs of families for help, the misunderstandings around childhood mental health, the paucity of provision for young people, and the difficulties in accessing help.
Keri invites comments on her blog in response to her post. As always, you are welcome to join in the conversation here as well.
It is always a pleasure to be able to share good news – in a field of work that is too often full of pain and frustration. So I was thrilled to hear about the recent award to Sue Pearson, Education Officer for the Leeds Youth Offending Team, by the Butler Trust, in recognition of ‘the empathy and skill she brings to her “life-changing” work with troubled families, and for the dedication and compassion she demonstrates in addressing the issue of child-to-parent violence’.
Sue received her award from HRH The Princess Royal. (Photo from Butler Trust)
Sue helped to develop the PACT (Parent and Children Together) programme in 2012; a 12-week programme working with mothers, and their sons and daughters, in a way that is recognised as healing and transformative by colleagues and parents alike. You can read more about the award, and the background to Sue’s work and nomination here.
I have met Sue at numerous conferences and networking events. It is a privilege to hear her speak about her work, and I am thrilled to be able to add my congratulations to those of the Butler Trust.
These comments are my own and do not necessarily represent those of other parties working and interested in the field of child to parent violence.
I have used the terms adolescent to parent abuse (APA), adolescent to parent violence (APV), child to parent violence (CPV), and parent abuse (PA) interchangeably, except where this has been made clear, to reflect the different usage at different times and by different people.
This week the Government published their landmark Domestic Abuse Bill, alongside the response to the Consultation, Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse. The Consultation looked at four specific areas:
- promoting awareness
- protecting and supporting victims
- transforming the justice process and perpetrator response
- and improving performance.
The Consultation Response and the Bill have been welcomed by many, particularly for the inclusion of economic abuse within the definition, recognition of the harm afforded to children and young people affected by domestic abuse (DA) within the family, for the protection afforded to victims and witnesses in court, and for the commitments to secure tenancies for those being rehoused. Nevertheless, there has been significant concern expressed about the need to translate words into actions, with adequate funding of services. Particular interest groups have rightly pointed out areas where they feel commitments could have been stronger, or where a change of direction is needed. Continue reading
Filed under Discussion, Law
My life now is radically different … But I still can’t sleep. Putting my child into care was searingly painful. I am often paralysed by recriminations, guilt and despair.
The words of a parent, writing in the Observer this last weekend, in a long, tender and heartwrenching piece about her experience of abuse and violence from her teenage son. Tom’s violent behaviour was thought to come from his acute frustration, communication difficulties and problems regulating his emotions, due to a range of diagnoses. It included actual violence to his mother and siblings, damage to property, and controlling behaviours which took over the life of the family, making a normal existence well nigh impossible. The writer, Lesley Clough, describes calling the police on numerous occasions, and the good support of local DV services, but ultimately the impossibility of finding any solution other than her son’s move out of the home and into care. Continue reading
Do you like your art calming and reflective, or maybe you enjoy the challenge of something complex and abstract? For thousands of years, artists have used their work to comment on the human condition, and to explore ideas of power, truth, and reality. Nevertheless, you might be thinking, “but what can art tell us about child to parent violence?”
What I like about any new way of looking at things is that the questions are slightly different, the insights often trip us up and change the direction of our thoughts, and we can be left with new questions that we hadn’t even thought of before! So I was excited to come across artist, Sophie Cero on twitter and to hear about her work exploring child and adolescent violence towards parents. Sophie kindly agreed to be interviewed for Holes in the Wall. Continue reading
Over the weekend, I came across the Serious Case Review (SCR) into the death of a young person referred to as ‘Chris’, published recently by Newham LSCB. I was drawn to it particularly as a social worker, and someone based in the area to which it refers. It is a profoundly moving document, highlighting real moments of good practice in work to support Chris and his family, while also indicating areas of work where people and agencies fell short in their roles and responsibilities. It is first and foremost an opportunity to learn about the lives of Chris and his family, to identify opportunities for learning from his tragic death, and to make recommendations to reduce the likelihood of similar events happening again. Continue reading
Back in 2013, I blogged about whether it was helpful to speak to the media, and how we could work within professional ethical guidelines with this. I find myself revisiting this theme now, partly because I am increasingly being contacted by investigative journalists interested in learning more about child to parent violence, and partly because I do believe the general tone and atmosphere around this is changing. With coverage in the mainstream media, and on flagship programmes it is in everyone’s interest to present as full a picture as possible, and to ensure accuracy of coverage whenever we are able to influence direction. Continue reading