Working with families experiencing adolescent-to

Working with families experiencing
adolescent to parent violence
Dr Caroline Miles
University of Manchester
[email protected]
Background research
• ESRC funded project 2010-2013 (with Rachel Condry,
University of Oxford)
• Focus on deliberate physical violence directed at
mothers and/or fathers by their adolescent (13-19 years)
• Interviews with parents, young people, police officers,
youth justice workers, expert practitioners.
• Fieldwork with police and youth justice services and
analysis of case files.
• Statistical analysis of incidents reported to the police.
Working with families experiencing APV
• 17 interviews with 20 expert practitioners
• Experiences of encountering APV
• Understanding/conceptualising APV
▫ APV within in a domestic violence (DV)
• Challenges in responding to APV
• Responding responsively to APV
Encountering APV
• Practitioners working across a range of support
services routinely encounter APV
▫ [Y]ou ask the right question to a parent, they'll tell
you. But you need to ask those right questions. And
asking those right questions, it became really apparent
that there was a lot of violence between child to
parent. (Expert 14)
▫ I have found that workers on the front line,
anecdotally, are reporting a massive increase in people
coming to them talking about child to parent violence.
(Expert 10)
APV and gender
• Son-mother abuse?
▫ [W]ith regards to kind of violence against parents,
again well I'd say at least half of the children that we
see [are girls]. And probably more to be honest,
depending on what you view as abusive and not
abusive. (Expert 7)
▫ We see more boys with single mums, but not
exclusively. We've got some very abusive girls at the
moment that we're dealing with. (Expert 13)
▫ I think when we think of it, we tend to think that it'd
be boys against mums. We're not finding that. Some of
our cases are girls against dads. (Expert 14)
Pathways to APV
Learning disabilities
Psychological/mental health problems
Alcohol/drug misuse
Sexual abuse
Systemic family problems
Cultural factors
Peer group
Previous experience of domestic violence
and abuse
Previous experience of DV
• A typical family would be a family who have experienced domestic
violence over many years. Maybe at this point, the perpetrator has
left the family, the child is reaching adolescence, they're going
through all the changes associated with being a teenager at that
point. There is also a power vacuum that's missing. The child usually
has had some sort of traumatic experience, around witnessing or
directly experiencing violence and are full of rage and sort of anger
towards everything and anything, perpetuated by hormonal,
physiological and psychological changes going on during that time;
and somehow, you know, this becomes expressed towards the mum.
Now mums have in a, I mean this a very kind of broad
generalisation, you know, but the mum has had years of experience
of domestic violence and that's, you know, affected her self-esteem,
affected her confidence as a mother … So you often get this kind of
typical dialogue between sort of child saying to their parent, "You're
too weak," and you know, being abusive towards mum. (Expert 2)
Previous experience of DV (cont.)
• Perceived lack of parental power and control
• Resentment/anger/lack of faith in parent
• Learning abusive behaviour
▫ And actually, these young people who are committing
the acts of violence, they stepped into a vacancy. So
they didn't create the violence in the family, in a lot of
the cases. The majority of cases that we see the
violence is a sort of an organising principle. They step
into a vacancy of the person who delivers the violence.
And sometimes that's better than being the person
who receives the violence, you know. (Expert 12)
Understanding APV in a DV framework
• Similarities in behaviours
▫ [I]t was very hard to make the distinction usefully
between violence to partners and violence
particularly against mothers, but violence to
parents. (Expert 10)
▫ Well you're looking at the same as a perpetrator of
domestic abuse, apart from it's from a child. Cos
they've, you know, it's manipulation, verbal,
physical intimidation, psychological … the
behaviour's exactly the same. (Expert 5)
Understanding APV in a DV framework
• Similarities in impact
▫ [S]he was really scared of what he was able to do physically
to her. She, she was really frightened by that and that’s why
she gave him all the money, and ran around after him and
did all sorts of things cos she, she was scared about the
violence. (Expert 16)
▫ I wouldn’t identify the ones I’ve spoken to as being kind of
parenting, teenage and parenting issues. I would look at
the, the woman’s really unhappy and, and scared cos that,
that is the thing with Domestic Abuse, it’s about that kind
of fear and about changing your behaviour as well, so
women will change their behaviour … (Expert 16)
Responding to APV as a form of DV
• Challenges/problems/crucial distinctions
▫ Parent-child relationship
▫ Reluctance to report child to authorities
▫ Parental responsibility for child
▫ Blurred line between ‘victim’ and ‘perpetrator’
▫ Criminalising young people
What constitutes a responsive response?
• Criminalisation of children?
▫ [The] vast majority of [young people] have had quite difficult and
complex problems in their lives, on an on-going basis for a
number of them. And at which point do you, are you able to
challenge them around responsibility and accountability for their
own behaviour? And that's a real tension in this work really, is
that you're working with them, a lot more than you are in adult
work, you're working with them both as victims and as abusers, in
a sense. And, and finding that balance can be tricky. (Expert 4)
▫ [P]articularly the young people that we work with, for them to be
engaged with the criminal justice system, to be criminalised and
treated as offenders, is almost compounding what they've already
been through. So rather than label them as bad, what we do is try
to help them to understand how they're feeling, their emotions
and how to change their behaviour, and that abusive
relationships versus healthy relationships. So it's a more
supportive, rather than a judgemental, I suppose on the face of it.
(Expert 6)
What constitutes a responsive response?
• Parent-blaming and assumption of parental control?
▫ It's like “What are you doing to stop that behaviour?
Or why has it escalated? How have you allowed this to
happen?” Because it challenges everything that we
believe about how family dynamics should operate.
(Expert 11)
▫ A lot of the parents we work have been blamed,
blamed that they're the bad parents, that their child is
acting up because they're, because they're rubbish
parents. Which simply isn't the case at all. So I think
there needs to be a much larger awareness of what
parental abuse is about. (Expert 7)
What constitutes a responsive response?
• Responsibilisation of parents?
▫ I know for a fact that half of parents I work with, they're past the
point of you know, some of these parenting courses. Some of
them have been on them three or four times … when you're
looking at violence, you're past that. (Expert 5)
▫ What's really interesting for me is in the cases that we do tend to
see is often the mums in the families are completely burnt out,
you know. And so the strategy and what people are trying to teach
them to be consistent, to sort of be doing the same thing all the
time, to apply the same strategies – they can't do it. They just
can't, you know, they get too tired, they just, you know, over time
it just degrades to a position where actually the intervention is no
longer any use, because they just can't maintain it, you know.
(Expert 12)
What constitutes a responsive response?
• Working with young people
• Working with parents
• Working with families together
• Systematic, tailored approach
• Non-judgemental environment
A responsive criminal justice response?
• Recognises adolescent to parent violence as a potentially
serious form of domestic violence
• Recognises the complex nature of APV and families’
• Enables parents to receive appropriate emergency
assistance and safety planning
• Offers prosecution routes where appropriate but also
offers robust diversionary responses
• Leads to long-term tailored support for parents and their
Examples of support services
Rosalie Ryrie Foundation (Wakefield)
PAARS (Enfield)
Break 4 Change (Brighton and Hove)
SAAIF (Colchester)
Wish (Bristol)
YUVA (London)
• Respect’s Young People’s Programme
• Step-up model in US – court diversion to specialist
programme – restorative, family-focused, no
▫ Programme adopted/adapted by several YOTs in UK
What they have in common/what works
• Recognition for families of the problem of APV
• Working with both parents and young people
• A non-judgemental environment – allowing young
people and parents to learn from their mistakes
• Meeting others with similar problems
• Listening and being listened to
• Helping families to find new solutions - teaching new
techniques and strategies

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