Over the years there have been a number of studies investigating the issue of child to parent violence within defined geographical regions, sometimes in response to specific incidents (Northumbria for instance) and sometimes commissioned by a particular body (this work in Lancashire for instance). In 2013 Condry and Miles published the first major work in the UK, which took as the main source the Metropolitan Police data over a 1 year period.
Each of these have shed light on our knowledge and understanding of particular aspects of this issue. However, the London VRU report, “Comprehensive needs assessment of Child/Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse in London”, launched last week and welcomed by the Mayor of London is the first to offer a comprehensive examination of the prevalence and characteristics of child / adolescent to parent violence and abuse (CAPVA*) within the capital, and to scope out the help available for families affected by this form of violence and abuse.
Somewhat delayed because of family circumstances, but I thought it would be helpful to have a look at the Government’s recently published Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan, and offer some thoughts.
Before I get started, a couple of caveats. First, the debate continues as to whether it is appropriate to consider child to parent violence and abuse under this umbrella. There are those who feel very strongly that it should be, because of the harm caused and the frequent links to the experience of intimate partner violence and abuse. (Academics such as Wilcox (2012) have made this case. PEGS literature is another case in point.) Others find the terminology and conceptualisation problematic, and shy away, preferring to focus on the age, the trauma and vulnerability of the children and young people themselves (for instance, many within the adoption community would feel this way). My sense from listening to people is that both views have merit, but that the circumstances around the harmful behaviour and family situation need to be taken into account in order to properly reflect each family’s situation.
A special issue, “Adolescent-to-Parent-Violence: Psychological and Contextual Influences” is to be published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health over the course of the next year, edited by Dr Ana Maria Martin Rodriguez. (This is an open access journal.)
This Special Issue of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (IJERPH) aims to gather systematic research on CPV, performed from different levels of analysis. Papers combining high academic standards and implications for intervention and assessment are welcome. A special call is made for longitudinal studies, given their relevance in the research of causal relations between risk/protective factors and CPV.
Full details of submission requirements can be found here.
I was chatting to someone recently and we were pondering the next direction for research in the field of child to parent violence and abuse. We are not without guidance in this respect. Most reports and papers conclude with recommendations, including further research needed to fill gaps in knowledge and understanding, and in the development of good practice.
Indeed, in the recent rapid literature review for the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s Office (here and here), Victoria Baker and I made a number of proposals for the way forward, with eight separate research priorities which can be summarised as follows: 1) establishing a nationally agreed terminology, 2) collecting robust data, 3) longitudinal research looking at the long term implications including “cost to society”, 4) a focus on young people’s experiences and perspectives, 5) how the experience and presentation of CPV is affected by the intersection of different identifying factors and situations, 6) high risk cases and those involving sexualised behaviour and abuse, 7) robust examination of context, and 8) the impact of COVID-19 for families and support services.
In early research it was reported (Charles) that child to parent violence (CPV) was an issue more likely to be found in white families, as black or Hispanic parenting practice was considered to offer greater protection through a more rigid and traditional style. And yet, in Britain, we see Afro-Caribbean young people over-represented in the police statistics when the figures are broken down. For many years now, children and young people’s violence and abuse towards their parents has been documented right around the world, whether through research or via media reporting. When I was studying the issue in 2005, I came across stories from Saudi Arabia, China, Singapore, Malta, and Nepal. Amanda Holt references work from both north and south America, Europe, Australia, South Africa, Iran, India, and Sri Lanka; and of course we have research too from New Zealand, Japan and Egypt. Simmons et al suggest that this is a phenomenon of industrialised nations wherever they are. But how do we interpret this sort of information, and what conclusions do we draw? What do assertions and data such as these really tell us about what is going on? What assumptions underlie the work we do?
You may have noticed on social media that today (September 9th) is International FASD awareness day – and in fact the whole of September is FASD awareness month! FASD (which stands for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) is now recognised as affecting more people than autism or ADHD. FASD is a group of lifelong conditions affecting people in different ways physically, emotionally and behaviourally, and because not everyone will be affected in the same way it is not always diagnosed early on. As a developmental condition there is no cure, but early diagnosis is important in order to be able to put support systems in place to help families cope and thrive.
Because some of the effects of alcohol on the developing foetus relate to later difficulties in processing information or in regulating emotions (for instance) some children with FASD will show patterns of difficult and challenging behaviour, sometimes using violence in the home and towards their parents and carers. Understanding more about FASD can help with understanding what is going on behind child to parent violence, and can be an important start in putting in place the networks and systems that are so vital for families in this situation.
The National Organisation for FASD is a good place to start (in the UK) if you want to develop your own awareness and understanding. There is a very helpful Preferred UK Language Guide on their website. Sandra Butcher, their CEO has been busy tweeting all day and you will find a lot of links to other resources from her, and news of anticipated policy changes.
If you’re on social media and you want to keep in touch with the latest research findings, policy and training, these are some people that I have found helpful to follow:
There are many more, I’m sure you’ll find the people who you can connect to best!
FASD is just one of the many different issues which can lead to families experiencing CPV. Its good to see that this condition is closer to getting the attention it deserves.
See the Government website for Guidance published September 9th on health needs assessment of families affected by Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
To download factsheets about FASD produced by FASD Hub Scotland click here.
IDVAs (Independent domestic violence advisors) are front line practitioners with specialist training in delivering practical and emotional support to victims of domestic abuse, and their children. While the vast majority of clients will have experienced violence and abuse from a partner or ex-partner, a small percentage of the work involves what is termed “familial violence”, and I was pleased to be able to speak with 2 Familial IDVAs recently to hear more about what they are able to offer.
I feel very strongly that school-based family workers are ideally placed to offer parents support, where there is child to parent violence (CPV). Let me tell you why.
I often reflect on how far we have come in the UK in terms of speaking out about child to parent violence and abuse. It is too easy to live in a bubble and assume that the willingness to talk about the issue, and the development of a response is something that has happened world wide, but there are many places – even close to home – where stigma and fear prevent parents from speaking out, and where an absence of academic research leaves a hole in national awareness, and ultimately in support for families.
Last week I had the privilege of speaking with Hilde van Mieghem, who has directed a number of TV documentaries in Belgium about violence within families between partners, and from parent to child – and now wants to explore violence and abuse from children towards their parents, in conjunction with Borgerhoff & Lamberigts TV. Her work is unusual in that she is not particularly interested in hearing the “what” and “when”, or in sensationalising the story, but rather focusses on the effect the abuse has on the individual, and their search for help: what feelings were aroused, the psychological impact, how people responded, how easy (or hard) it was to find help. The previous series were well received within Belgium and prompted many individuals to come forward who had not previously thought about their experiences as abusive or who had been too ashamed or afraid to seek support. They sparked parliamentary discussion, led to the establishment of new training courses for social workers and care givers, and encouraged the development of peer groups and awareness and prevention campaigns.