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.
Building on this previous work, Al Coates and Dr Wendy Thorley have now designed a new, more comprehensive survey to be disseminated among all communities across the UK and beyond. It is for any families experiencing child to parent violence and aggression, whether birth family, kinship carers, foster or adoptive parents, Special Guardians or any other relevant relationships. Within the first days that it was online, they have already received over 100 responses and so there are high hopes that the data extracted will give a fuller, more comprehensive picture of the experience of CPVA and its impact on families’ daily life, informing the design of support and training needs.
You can read more about this new survey, and take part, via Al Coates website, or the CEL&T website.
Please take a moment to look at the survey, to complete it if relevant to you, or to pass on to other who might be interested. The survey is open until February 5th.
One of the issues that makes it difficult for us all to talk about child to parent violence and abuse is the fact that there is no one agreed definition. The one I tend to use when speaking to people is that proposed by Amanda Holt:
“A pattern of behaviour, instigated by a child or young person, which involves using verbal, financial, physical and /or emotional means to practice power and exert control over a parent”, and “the power that is practised is, to some extent, intentional, and the control that is exerted over a parent is achieved through fear, such that a parent unhealthily adapts his / her own behaviour to accommodate the child.” Continue reading
I am grateful to Dr Girish Vaidya, Clinical Director at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, for allowing me to repost this recent blog on his experience of discussing CPV with colleagues.
Originally published on April 8, 2017
Ever since I presented at a national conference
on Child on Parent Violence (CPV), I had been left pondering about it. It’s not that I hadn’t had been exposed to CPV incidents in my professional life. Indeed, my work as an Expert Witness for the Family and Criminal Courts regularly acquaints me with families where CPV happens. What was different this time was that it was a number of different (and diverse) sources who were complaining of CPV. Whether it was a Yvonne Newbold
in her Radio 4 programme or Hannah Meadows
or Al Coates
as parents of adoptive children – the origins of their CPV were diverse. Yet, the impact was the same – the feelings that all parents of children who assault them have.
Al Coates and Dr Wendy Thorley’s 3 reports (the last of which is linked here) into an online research project provided fascinating reading and prompted me to present the subject in a CPD seminar for fellow psychiatrists in Sheffield’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). I was particularly keen to share the findings of the reports, my fellow professionals’ experience of this issue and how they managed to address it.
It was heartening to hear that all my colleagues were aware of the issue. When I invited them to think about the impact on the families experiencing, their guesswork was entirely in line with the findings from Al Coates and Dr Thorley’s investigation. What this meant was that once seized of the behaviour as a problem, professionals were able to consider its consequences to the children, families and wider society.
There were also some examples that colleagues offered. One Learning Disability CAMHS Consultant recalled how she was horrified when confronted with a suggestion from social services that a child – who had earlier required 5 people to restrain him – had been advised to be returned home to his frail mother. Quite a few chipped with their experience of Sheffield Children’s Social Services and expressed their pleasant surprise at the speed of response and collaborative nature of working. It was also acknowledged, much in line with what Mary Aspinall – Miles said at a recent conference, that “parents should consider carefully before calling the police”.
So, what should parents (and professionals) do when dealing with a difficult subject like Child on Parent Violence?
My fellow psychiatrists were keen that professionals and parents work out a ‘pre-emptive emergency plan’ so that parents are not left in a dilemma about what they should do. A couple of colleagues were passionate about treating CPV on the same level of child abuse. They were also aware of the Sheffield Domestic Abuse Coordination Team’s MARAC (Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference). Some suggested that parents should be asked about their ability to cope vs. their ability to manage their life.
Reassuringly, there was a near universal desire to have a ‘rating scale’ on the lines of various risk rating scales that professionals use, to have a common language about CPV. (I am not aware if there is any such scale and if there is, would be keen to know about it). If there isn’t a scale, my colleagues are keen to work with anyone to help develop one.
Writing this, I am reminded of an incident many years ago when one family’s holiday came in for professional scrutiny. The child had been inflicting severe violence on his parents which had destroyed many a family holiday for the rest of the family. Parents decided that they wanted to do something which didn’t wreck their other children’s holiday. They planned to take separate holidays – father with the other children and mother with the lad. They would swap the following year. It was deemed to be a demonstration of family pathology that they didn’t manage to have a family holiday without a fight. I felt that was being a bit too harsh since the family were trying to find a way out of a very challenging situation not fully appreciated by professionals. What do you think? Would you agree with Hannah Meadows’ assertion that self-care is an intelligent response to dealing with long term stress? Or would you rather that the family learn to live with the CPV on holiday?
Feedback from the CPD seminar suggested that this is just the beginning of our journey. Professionals want to know more, need to know more so that they can support more. Everyone agreed that it was a less discussed issue in clinical discussions and many emphasised that they would be on the lookout for CPV in their clinical practice in the future.
Let us continue the conversation…………………………..
If you are keen to collaborate on scientifically researching this challenge, we – as an organisation and I as a Clinical Director – would be keen to work with you.
A number of new papers – academic and discussion – have been published recently, and I have gathered them all up here together for ease. Continue reading
At the end of November 2016, Al Coates, an adoptive parent and social worker, put out on social media a survey asking parents about their experience of child to parent violence. You can read more about it here and here. He received 264 responses over a three week period, largely – unsurprisingly given the main mode of dissemination – from adoptive parents. The collation started straight away and a first paper was put out at the start of the new year. First Impressions is available from the CE< website, part of the University of Sunderland. Dr Wendy Thorley, of the University of Sunderland, is a member of what might broadly be termed the Steering committee for this project, and she has helped to edit the report.
The survey asked questions about a family’s experience of child to parent violence, and about the age at which it started, the impact on the family, and about the help that had been offered – or not. Continue reading