Tag Archives: CPVA

A response to the Government’s Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan

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.

Secondly, a reminder that the Domestic Abuse Act includes only those over the age of 16, recognising that family members as well as partners can be perpetrators of abuse. It is these clauses which bring children using harmful behaviour towards their parents into the equation. Children under 16 are not included within this legislation as those using harm, but are recognised as victims in their own right. This therefore excludes a large group of families, experiencing harmful behaviour from children as young as three or four, from this legal recognition.

The Plan is informed by the responses to the Call for Evidence (thank you to all who responded), and aligns with the updated VAWG strategy, 2021. The Government has made clear that more attention is needed to combat this “pervasive and insidious crime”, with £230 million allocated to bring about the changes outlined. There is a three-pronged focus: Prevention, Support for victims and survivors, and Holding perpetrators to account, with systemic reform which will lead to a more coordinated and informed response.

The Plan has been broadly welcomed by the leading voices in the Domestic Abuse sector, among them Respect, Safe Lives and Women’s Aid. Indeed, there is much to applaud and, if implemented fully, forthcoming action will build on work already taking place to bring about greater safety and security for all. So what does the Plan have to say about children and young people who use harmful behaviour towards their parents and carers?

First, the main section including commitments regarding child to parent abuse is on page 27:

Tackling behaviours early on is key to preventing future offending, as these learned behaviours can act as a steppingstone towards perpetrating abuse in later life. The Home Office will publish updated guidance for frontline practitioners on child-to-parent abuse (CPA) this year, working with frontline practitioners include those working in the police, health, education, and social care, to name just a few. The Home Office will also work with stakeholders to reach an agreed definition and terminology for this type of behaviour. This will underpin policy development on the response to CPA, and comprehensive guidance to support practitioners and service commissioners.

These are reiterated in the Commitments section in Annex C, and there is acknowledgement (p56) of the £25 million Home Office funding already funnelled in over the last two years, to introduce innovative approaches to addressing DA, including programmes focused on children and adolescents.

This is good news! We have been wondering what had happened to updating the guidance (first published in 2015) for some time, and so it is great to have this firm commitment to concluding the work. Furthermore, the commitment to move towards an agreed definition and terminology is one which has been asked for for as long as I have been involved in the work, most recently in the rapid literature review of 2021. Naturally the funding is very much welcomed and has already been put to good use, developing and rolling out responses across the country. I am slightly unsettled though by the framing of the response to CPA as one to prevent future offending. The experience of families is one which deserves attention very much now, recognising the harm caused now. (But fair enough, this is in the section about prevention).

To mention only these sections though would be shortsighted given what we know about child to parent violence and abuse. And so we welcome the focus on schools both in terms of delivery of the RHSE curriculum and as a place to screen for, and identify early on, children who have been victims of DA with a view to offering evidence based, effective support to child and adult survivors. (I refer back to my previous blog post here in supporting the development of work within schools as ideally placed for prevention, screening and delivery of support.) A stronger system (p58), which has a shared understanding of the issues, collaborates and coordinates responses is particularly needed with CPVA, not least in the area of agreeing what it is and how it comes about. I am excited too by the determination to recognise DA as a Safeguarding issue, with the need to work together effectively to identify and support children and young people exhibiting or victims of harmful behaviour (p65). I would suggest that the individual, interpersonal, and neighbourhood level predictors listed (p84) are as likely to be true for children and young people as they are for adults. A system that recognises these difficulties, and that works together, could be identifying those at risk much earlier on – not just for preventing adult and peer abuse in the future, but in starting to tackle CPVA before it becomes entrenched and builds to a point where children are coming within this legislation.

There are, naturally, things I would like to see more of. Data presented in the Plan suggests that more than twice as many people aged 16 – 74 reported experience of partner abuse than abuse by other family members (Annex B), and so it is understandable that the focus is on work with those who are partners and former partners. This is reflected too in the focus on the police and criminal justice system as the foremost source of help. Nevertheless, the data suggests a sizeable group of people (of all ages) experiencing abuse from family members including children, emphasising the importance of recognising the very specific issues for this group of people. Difficulties in reporting perpetrators who are children, and in making a break in the relationship, have been documented in many places (for instance Difficult) and may require a separate response which recognises these issues. This is true not just for those aged 16 and 17, but right through adulthood, where the peculiarity of the relationship adds stresses, and a sense of responsibility for a perpetrator who may be seen as vulnerable in their own right.

So: strong on prevention; good in parts. And commitments to furthering understanding and responses for the future. Going forward, I would like to see more about the very specific issues facing these families now, whether that be in terms of support for victims and survivors, or holding those responsible to account – and fingers crossed that there is more about this in the updated guidance! In the meantime, the battle to obtain recognition within the policies of other Departments continues, as we seek the formal recognition of the issues of child to parent violence and abuse from younger children as well.

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New work on APVA draws attention to links with sibling abuse and bullying.

In my own book, Child to Parent Violence and Abuse: a Practitioner’s Guide to Working with Families, I included examples of how different individuals had sought to “make real” the issue of data, and prevalence of CPVA for their own work and that of other practitioners and policy makers. Elizabeth McCloud had spoken to me at a conference some years earlier about the project she was undertaking, and she is one of the people referenced in my work. So I was thrilled to hear that her research was completed, and available to all. My one regret is that I did not find the time to read this earlier.

The book is aimed at “academics, professionals and policy makers with an interest in youth offending, contextual safeguarding and domestic violence”. One of the first to undertake a large quantitative study of this size in the UK, McCloud sought to identify specific characteristics and experiences at home and school associated with the experience of adolescent to parent violence and abuse (APVA), and explored whether these could be used to predict its occurrence. As such it includes important new information about both bullying and sibling abuse, two areas which have received less coverage in this country.

Over the course of eight chapters, McCloud sets out the detail of her work and findings in the context of previous research, theoretical approaches, and the development of policy, and makes recommendations for future investigation, as well as the application of her findings to day to day work within services concerned with the safety and well-being of young people and families. As a narrative of the course of her research, it is by its nature an academic work. Indeed, chapter 6 carries a warning: “this chapter is dense with statistics”. Nevertheless, the discussion within each section brings these findings to life and makes the research more accessible to those of us less familiar with statistical language.

Discussing the problem that we still have no agreed terminology or definition, McCloud offers her own definition: Any pattern of intended incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse by an adolescent (10 to 18 years old) towards a parent or carer. This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse: psychological, emotional, physical, sexual abuse, financial and economic. Through the use of questionnaires undertaken across 2 secondary schools, with 890 young people between the ages of 10 and 18 , she considers three separate categories of abuse, psychological, physical and severe, and examines the influence of personal and family characteristics in each case, for example emotional difficulties, family stress, substance use, and broader aggressive behaviour. Of particular interest, chapter 5 outlines significant associations between APVA behaviour and the experience of bullying, whether as a victim, observer or perpetrator.

The final chapter looks at the implications of the findings, and McCloud recommends that APVA could be screened for in universal settings such as schools. Furthermore, she suggests the need for a holistic whole family approach to assessment, and intervention via a tiered model (universal, early help, targeted and specialist), recognising the escalating levels of APVA.

While McCloud is at pains to locate her findings within the larger body of work, there are also important new insights regarding the links between sibling abuse and APVA; and between bullying, particularly in schools, and APVA behaviour within the home. This latter area of work is one of particular interest to me and so I hope that this will be taken up and developed further. The contributions to understanding are thus significant and timely.

Adolescent-to-Parent Violence and Abuse: Applying Research to Policy and Practice (2021) is published by Palgrave Macmillan and is available in print and as an ebook.

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Research priorities

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.

Also recently, I came across this document from the Victorian Government in Australia, laying out priorities for work in family violence, including adolescent violence in the home (AVITH), with a focus around developing a deeper understanding regarding the drivers and types of adolescent family violence and effective responses. Importantly here, there are questions to be asked about the possibility of better early identification and intervention, the impact on adolescents themselves, as well as new emerging forms of abuse and links with other forms of abusive behaviour.

Compared to where we were ten years ago, we have made huge strides in analysis and understanding; in the collection of data and its use in the development of responses; in exploring motivations and challenging stereotypes. But there is still a long way to go, and significant gaps remain in the way we have examined this issue. Thankfully there is also hugely more work taking place in this field, in the UK and across the world.

There are currently 2 requests for help with research in the UK that I am aware of. Giulia Pintus at Middlesex University, hopes to find 2 more participants for her work with mothers of children aged 6 – 12, expressing aggressive behaviour towards them; and Anu Adebogun at Oxford University has just started recruiting for her important work with black mothers experiencing “difficult, abusive or violent behaviour” from their child or adolescent. If you can help by passing on the information in these requests, I am sure the researchers would be immensely grateful.

If you are engaged in research in this field and would like your work to be included on the Research page of this website, you are welcome to contact me.

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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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Ready for change?

I’ve been thinking more about my last blog (“What works?”), and whether other things are needed too for successful, supportive and healing work with families where there is child to parent violence and abuse. This was prompted in part by a recent Partnership Projects blog post from Peter Jakob and Jill Lubienski, looking at the importance of motivation to change.

Before everyone rushes in, can I say that I acknowledge that many families are highly motivated and have been banging on doors asking for help for significant lengths of time, and that the blockage is most definitely not at their end! Nevertheless, it is important also to recognise that CPVA impacts many different families and for many different reasons, and in some cases, families may be expected to engage in a piece of work not of their choosing. By which I don’t mean classic parenting classes. A couple of examples: one family may have been referred to a programme as part of a wider piece of work, or through the courts; or they may come to a service voluntarily but very clearly identify the problem as rooted in the child or young person, expecting them to make all the changes. If we identify the issue of child to parent violence and abuse as a relationship issue, then we seek to bring about change also within the relationship, and not simply for one individual.

As always, once I start thinking about something it pops up everywhere in conversations and reading, so I was interested to hear that this was something that other practitioners were tackling at the moment. Continue reading

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Everything has changed – and nothing has changed

Well this could be true about so many things at the moment! The world we knew is far from the one we are living in at present, and yet the violence and abuse that too many families experience on a daily basis continues. The pandemic has driven a flurry of interest in child to parent violence and abuse from the media; but also people have been looking for different ways to conduct training, and so my diary has been rather taken up by Zoom events! For the last few months I have found myself reflecting in a more concerted way than usual on the progress of work around child to parent violence and abuse since 2010. Continue reading

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VAWG Strategy: Lack of Progress update for CPV

The Home Office published its latest VAWG Strategy papers this week, with the Ending Violence Against Women and Girls 2016 – 2020 Strategy Refresh, and the Ending Violence against Women and Girls Action Plan 2016 – 2020 Progress Update. Once again, I was disappointed to see that there was no mention of children’s and adolescent’s violence and abuse towards their parents, though not entirely surprised since it is has not featured as a specific issue since 2014, and only one line mention in 2016. The irony is that, at a local level, many areas are now developing their own strategic response; but by omitting this aspect of violence and abuse from central government documents – and thinking – it remains invisible, unconsidered, and unimaginable for too many people. Continue reading

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Reports from the 2018 CPVA Survey

You may have been following the discussion opened up by Dr Wendy Thorley and Al Coates, following their survey of adoptive and foster families at the end of 2016 (here,  here, here and here), and then the enlarged questionnaire to all families experiencing violence and aggression from their children of 2018. If so, you will already be aware of the way in which the responses brought to the fore a number of difficulties with the way in which CPVA is understood and conceptualised; particularly around intent, and children who have either a recognised mental health diagnosis, learning difficulty, or have experienced trauma in early childhood. Two documents are now available, comprising a full and detailed analysis of the recent survey responses, and an extended summary of the main discussion points and recommendations. The first is available through Amazon, the second as a free download from Academia. Continue reading

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CPVA survey 2018

At the end of 2016, Al Coates and Dr Wendy Thorley put out a survey to start exploring families’ experiences of child to parent violence, particularly within the adopter community. I was pleased to publicise it, and have since shared the reports (here and also available on the CEL&T website) which were generated from their enquiries. While it was acknowledged that there was nothing ground-breakingly new in their findings, the work was important in opening up the discussion and allowing it to move into a broader range of meetings and departments. Whether as a coincidence or a direct result, the last year did see significant increases in the open acknowledgement of this issue. Continue reading

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Child to parent violence and abuse at Community Care Live 2017

 

 

I am thrilled to announce that I will be speaking about child to parent violence and abuse at the Community Care Live 2017 conference in London on September 26th, along with Al Coates. As one of the flagship social work events of the year, this is a real privilege, and it feels like an important milestone in the development of awareness and better support for families.

We will be presenting on why CPVA happens, and how to respond when a family seeks help.

  • What research tells us about risk factors associated with child to parent violence, and what the most common ages are for abuse to start.
  • How the abuse affects parents, and what they want from social workers and services.
  • The different issues raised when child to parent abuse emerges as an issue for a child who has been adopted, or is in a foster care, kinship care or special guardianship placement.
  • How social workers and services can support families experiencing violence or abuse.

Do come along and say hello (and hear us speak!) We have the early slot on the Tuesday, so no excuses!

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