Tag Archives: trauma

#CPV: What does it look like, part 2. Intent stuff

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.”

For me this seems to be broad enough, while encompassing the main features of what I am thinking and talking about. It builds on and refines earlier definitions that have been proposed. But the more I speak with other people, the more I realise that everyone’s experience is different and there are many, many parents who experience something that looks and feels very similar without necessarily ticking all the boxes. I wrote about this most recently in a post at the end of March, when I started thinking about the boundaries and edges of the definition we use. This is an issue that troubles me because it seems that a lot hangs on how readily we start to bring different aspects of violent behaviour into the CPV camp. Today I want to think about intent more specifically, and I hope that you will feel free to join in the conversation in the comments section.

A couple of months ago, Al Coates posted about the definition of child to parent violence, following discussion with other members of the adoptive community, some of whom felt unsure that perhaps theirs “didn’t count”. He and Dr Wendy Thorley further grapple with the discussion in their final paper about Adoption and CPV. The question of intent can be tricky, as parents may talk about a child sometimes acting out of frustration or trauma, and at other times choosing very deliberately to hit in a controlled way.

Consider this family …

 

A child in crisis, or triggered by a particular situation, dysregulated, out of touch with all going on around them, may cause a great deal of harm to their surroundings, to those around them whether adults, other children or animals, and also to themselves. That is not to say that, in that moment, those around them will not experience the violence, terror even, and find themselves forced to change their own behaviour, then and in the long term. But the element of intent is surely absent.

Another child – and perhaps even that same child – may on another occasion, show remarkable discernment and control in the manner in which they choose to act. They may target precious possessions in their rages, they may choose words they know will cause the most hurt, they may kick where there are already bruises.

 

As we learn more about the families who are experiencing violence and abuse, we see a huge range of issues which can contribute to the abuse, often layer upon layer in one child or family. As we start to think about responses, we need to unpick these issues. Different approaches for different situations; a trauma-informed response here, a behaviour oriented response there. Elements of each in different situations? There is certainly no blanket “one size fits all” answer.

Why does a definition matter? Are we simply being pedantic by arguing about intent? In a fast developing field such as child to parent violence, where knowledge and understanding is growing all the time, is it not inevitable that definitions are refined? Well, yes! But in a fast developing field it is also important that we know what we are talking about; that people sharing knowledge are talking about the same things; that parents can feel confident about asking for help and believing they will be understood; that services designed in response are fit for purpose and meet the needs of those they seek to serve. It can be a tremendous step for a parent to finally acknowledge the violence being committed within their own family. What may seem obvious to those outside, can still be passed off as “normal” teenage behaviour, or as something that is somehow deserved, by those on the receiving end. Shame, stigma, and ignorance all contribute to parents not identifying their situation to themselves or others.

As the conversation gets louder, and more people start to identify what they experience themselves as CPV we need to be sure we have got it right for them, right from the start.

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Discussion

Discussion about CPV going mainstream?

When the Guardian carries two pieces in a weekend alluding to violence and abuse from child to parent, (A letter to my teenage girl who hates me so very much and My ten year old daughter was bullied – is this why she has tantrums?) I think we can safely say that we are beginning to go mainstream.

Neither of these pieces is entirely straightforward – but isn’t that the point? Relationships within families are complex and varied. Violence and abuse has roots in so many different places. The tipping point between normal reaction and abusive behaviour can be hard to identify other than retrospectively. In both cases we see parents who are unimaginably sad for their children and at what is happening in their families, looking for answers and hoping for a better future. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Discussion

Trauma and resilience conference

Where is our outrage?

Lisa Cherry and Jane Evans hosted an inaugural conference on Trauma, Resilience and Recovery on June 2nd 2015. You can see a short video summarising the conference here.

Their work is concerned with raising awareness of the effects of early trauma and changing the way we work with children and families to take account of this, building an attachment focused and trauma aware society more able to support and heal those impacted by early (and ongoing) adversity. This is an issue that both Jane and Lisa are passionate about, and both speak and write extensively about it. Each has written a summary of the conference on their blog (Jane here and Lisa here).

Some would say this is timely as the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), has issued guidelines, currently up for consultation, arguing that health and social care providers should train all key workers in assessing attachment difficulties and parenting quality, for children in – or on the edge of – care. You can read more about this here.

Leave a comment

Filed under conference report

Parenting a Violent Child: book review

What do you do if you are a parent experiencing violence and abuse from your child but there is no help available where you live? So many parents speak of a lack of understanding from non-specialists, and regular parenting groups that can make the situation worse rather than better. Up until now the only recourse might have been to online message boards, helplines or friends. Now there is a “virtual group” in the shape of a step-by-step guide to understanding behaviours that can hinder or help the restoration of a healthy family relationship. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Book review

My Violent Child: “everything revolves around him”

So this week saw the start of the return series of My Violent Child, the Channel 5 documentary made by Popkorn TV about children’s violence to parents, which first aired in Britain in June 2014. I was tempted to post something in the run up to the first episode (of 3) but decided to watch first before committing myself – always good practice I find! Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under TV

A brighter future for families experiencing child to parent violence

Continuing a mini series of interviews about different projects around the country, I have been speaking with Sian Taylor at Wish for a Brighter Future in Bristol.

Wish header

 

Wish for a Brighter Future (WISH) has been in operation since 2003, when a small group of Hartcliffe residents identified a need to provide domestic abuse support in their community. WISH worked for many years supporting men, women and children affected by domestic violence and abuse (DVA) within the local community before developing their parent abuse project. They found their understanding and experience of DVA were vital in making the transition from domestic to parent abuse support. While the original expectation was that the work would be with young people, delivering domestic abuse prevention work through education and group work support – and the funding* supported this plan – once the doors opened the organisation was inundated with referrals for parent abuse, and for the last year this has been the sole focus of the work. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under projects

RCPV: The final conference

Brighton last week saw the final conference for the Responding to Child to Parent Violence Project, the second largest funded project from the Daphne111 programme, and one I have grown to feel very close to. It was something I blogged about in my very first post here, and the team have been very gracious in allowing me to ‘hang out’ with them over the last three years. The closing of a project might seem a sad occasion, but it felt more like a celebration, as each of the partner countries (England, Ireland, Spain, Sweden and Bulgaria) and programmes presented their achievements and aspirations – and indeed the growth and development of understanding and resources will continue as well as the friendships forged through work together. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under conference report, Research