Child to Parent Violence – a growing area of concern for families with children and adolescence on the edge of care?
Child to parent violence (CPV) is defined by Cottrell (2004:16) as ‘any act of a child that is intended to cause physical, psychological or financial damage in order to gain control of a parent’. Many commentators have stated that CPV is a hidden, misunderstood and stigmatised form of family violence and there is a lack of research and understanding of the reasons behind what causes it and reasons for its apparent increase.
I have chosen this topic for my research project as my placement is working with children and adolescents ‘on the edge of care’, where there is a high risk of family breakdown and/or care entry due to their risk taking and challenging behaviours within the family home. CPV is a feature in the majority of the families that I and my colleagues have been working with, although there appears to be a lack of understanding among professionals into the reasons for this, how to effectively intervene with these families and resources for practitioners and parents alike.
This research project will examine the significance of CPV and suggest reasons behind the high prevalence of CPV in families where children and adolescents are on the edge of care.
I will provide a critical review of both UK and international literature relating to CPV and demonstrate an understanding of historical, sociological, psychological and policy perspectives. I will provide a critical evaluation of the local policies, practices and provision of services for CPV or lack of in Northern Ireland. I aim to demonstrate an understanding of service users’ perspectives by highlighting the experiences of the families I worked with on my placement along with using other sources of research information.
Anti-oppressive practice (AOP) will be discussed throughout to display my knowledge of the discriminating systems that operate in the lives of SU’s.
CPV involves the ‘continual and cumulative abusive actions perpetrated by children and adolescents towards their parents or caregivers’ (Williams et at, 2017). Whilst there is no overall agreed definition of CPV it is understood that parent abuse ‘goes over and above everyday experiences of children hitting their parents which can happen for all sorts of medical, developmental and situational reasons and is therefore outside the parameters of abusive behaviour (Holt, 2013:1). Furthermore, it should be noted that not all CPV is abusive and violence can be defensive, mutual combat or expressive (Gallagher, 2008).
Children on the ‘Edge of care’ are defined by Ofsted (2011a) as ‘those young people for whom entry into care had been considered by the local authority, either on a voluntary basis or through legal proceedings, but who have not entered care’. The most common age range of new entrants to care is 10 – 15 years (DFE, 2015) and according to research by Holt (2013) the average age at which children abuse their parents is approximately 12-14 years.
The writer’s experience on placement identified CPV as a significant factor for the majority of families, the extent of which was revealed during intensive therapeutic work by practitioners. This was often met with practitioners lacking the skills and knowledge of how best to intervene. The writer’s findings were echoed in research carried out by Wilcox et al (2015:4) who found that ‘practitioners in mainstream services reveal varying levels of confidence, competence and knowledge of CPV and how to tackle it’. This promoted the writer’s interest in this area, and it is hoped that by conducting this review the writer will highlight CPV as a growing area of concern, especially within families where children are on the Edge of Care.
There has only been one piece of research conducted on the prevalence of CPV on Edge of Care children. Biehal, (2012) found that 54% of 112 parents had experienced CPV within the previous six month period, highlighting the extent of the problem with Edge of Care families. Interestingly, research carried out by Ofsted (2011a) found that 58% of a sample of 122 young people, either in care or care leavers believed that if they were given more support with their problems and support to keep out of trouble they would not have needed to go into care, which highlights the gap in support service provision to these families.
Research has been carried out by Selwyn & Meakings (2016:1224) on two recent adoption studies of previously looked after children in England and Wales. It found that CPV was ‘prevalent in the lives of families that experienced adoption disruption and responsible for placement instability in foster and residential care’. This highlights the need for early intervention as a means of AOP, as CPV may continue when the child becomes ‘looked after’.
The writer supports the use of ‘evidence-informed practice’ (Nevo & Nevo, 2011) throughout this review, in which social workers are encourage to be knowledgeable about findings from all types of studies and take into consideration practice wisdom and service users perspectives. The writer’s research has been sourced from journal articles, online reports, websites and specialist research available on placement. Most research methods used to produce knowledge of CPV are derived from an analysis of criminal justice data, large scale surveys, small scale quantitative data and case studies using qualitative data.
Critical Review of UK and International Literature
CPV was identified and studied in the UK as far back as the 1950’s, although it began to receive more attention from the 1970’s onwards when Harbin & Madden, (1979) recognised CPV as a significant element of family violence. In the UK there is limited data on prevalence and a lack of analysis of criminal justice data (Holt, 2013). However, two sources of research evidence from the 1990’s are important, although out-dated, they are methodologically reliable. Firstly, the reported data from the British Crime Survey (Mirrlees-Black et al, 1996) showed that approximately 2% of domestic violence was CPV. Secondly, Brown & Hamilton (1998) found that 14.5% of psychology graduates at a UK university reported to having used violent tactics against their parents, with approximately 4% using ‘severe violence’ at least once.
More recently, in 2009, statistics were gathered from a UK telephone support service which revealed that 27% of telephone calls were received from concerned parents experiencing verbal and physical aggression from their children, (Parentline Plus). The first large scale UK study was conducted by the University of Oxford from 2010-2013. This study indicated that there is no single cause of parent abuse, although families described a range of reasons for their child’s behaviour such as substance misuse, history of domestic violence, mental health problems, family history of domestic violence, learning difficulties or self-harm.
It is widely acknowledged by international research that childhood experience of domestic violence is a significant factor in CPV and the Home Office (2016) states it is the ‘biggest single factor in parent violence’. However, Baker (2012) and Gallagher (2004) caution against using the ‘cycle of violence’ theory as not all children who experience childhood domestic violence will go on to abuse their parents. Most researchers have also found that it is mainly mothers who experience CPV and mainly sons who use physical violence (Condry & Miles, 2013). In Biehal’s (2012) research with children on the Edge of Care, 81% of parents experiencing CPV were mothers. Some studies state that lone parents (especially mothers) are more likely to be victims of parent abuse whilst other studies found there is no correlation with family structure (Boxer et al, 2009). According to Bonnick (2017) ‘there is no one cause, but many correlations have been identified, including past domestic violence, substance use by the adolescent, disorganised family life, and also a sense of over-entitlement in the young person’.
The majority of research into CPV has originated from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA. Some research has been carried out in Europe, Israel, Japan and China. In the US the National Family Violence Survey (1975) found that 20.2% of mothers and 14% of fathers reported being hit by their children (Ullman & Straus, 2003). In Canada, the Quebec Log Study of Kindergarden Children (1986-96) found that 13.8% of children had been physically aggressive to their mothers and 11.2% to their fathers in the previous six months (Pagani et al, 2009). This study also noted a correlation between harsh parental punishment and CPV. Although these studies are dated, they represent reliable measures of prevalence. Some recent studies are problematic, due to low response rates and use of non-probability sampling methods (Holt, 2013) which has led to over and under representation of CPV prevalence.
Recent research carried out in USA and Australia, indicates that CPV affects approximately 1 in 10 families (Wilcox et al, 2015). A large US literature review reported CPV as impacting on 7 -18% of families (Kennair & Mellor, 2007). In Spain, research carried out by police found that the number of complaints filed by parents against their children increased from 1,627 in 2006 to 5,377 in 2011, an increase of 230% (Ministerio de Justicia, 2012 cited in Calvete et al, 2013). This study highlighted that children were adopting an authoritarian role, perceiving parents as incapable of exercising power. Spanish research by Ibabe & Jaureguizar (2010) collected from Public Prosector for Juveniles found 85% of child perpetrators to be male, however as noted by Holt (2013) it is often males rather than female perpetrators who are criminalised for CPV and this may be due to severity of the abuse. However, this Spanish study was of importance as it highlighted the extent to CPV as a growing issue in juvenile justice.
During 2015 – 2016 there has been increasing research articles on CPV in Spain, mostly sourced from juvenile justice samples. One such piece of research, conducted by Contreras & Carmen (2016:43) with a sample of 90 adolescents, found that ‘exposure to violence at home was significantly correlated to the hostile social perception of adolescents in CPV cases’. This has implications for the way in which society perceives adolescents and the writer notes that more research needs to be carried out on the high youth unemployment rate in Spain and possible correlation to CPV.
The Responding to Child To Parent Violence (RCPV, 2017) research project is currently studying CPV in England, Bulgaria, Spain, Sweden and Ireland. The data collected by each county on CPV is analysed and developed cross country comparisons. Findings from the research so far have been significant in improving practice and implementing successful CPV interventions, helping to raise awareness of CPV. This research highlights that CPV is a hidden issue in both Bulgaria and Sweden and there is a lack of public and professional awareness. In Bulgaria the family is viewed as a private institution and family violence may be hidden for this reason. In Sweden there are official statistics on domestic violence, although children are mostly viewed as victims and not potential instigators of CPV.
Within the Republic of Ireland CPV is not measured by any agency and there is no specific legislation, however it’s prominence is being research by RCPV (2017) and resources have been created to address the issues, which will be mentioned later. Research has been carried out in Japan (Inamara, 1980) which has similar findings to other countries with one notable difference being that perpetrators are often lone or eldest children in economically privileged families where fathers are frequently absent from the home. In India, CPV appears to be absent from research and discussions, which according to Segel (1999) may be due to Indian culture in which family issues are managed privately.
Policy and Legislative Context
Hunter & Piper, (2012:217) reviewed the legal interventions available for CPV and concluded that CPV is mostly,
‘absent in public law relating to child protection, in private law relating to inter-parental disputes and in criminal law relating to children who offend and in civil law relating to those who behave anti-socially’.
There have been recent changes in UK law and policy such as the domestic violence legislation for England and Wales (2013) being changed to include 16 and 17 year olds, a change that was intended to address CPV (Bonnick, 2017). However, as noted by Selwyn & Meakings (2016) this reduction in the criminal age assumes young people can make choices about their actions whilst children who have experienced maltreatment and trauma may have an emotional development less than their chronological age. In 2016, the Home Office issued guidance (HO, 2016) to practitioners in responding to adolescent to parent violence. In addition, in 2015, the Serious Crime Act (England and Wales) introduced a new criminal offence of ‘coercive or controlling behaviour in an intimate or family relationship’, (HO, 2015) which can be applied to anyone over the age of criminal responsibility – 10 years old. Miles & Condry, (2015:1076) state this change in law could potentially lead to the prosecution of adolescents who are abusive towards their parents’.
It could be argued that aforementioned changes in law are oppressive to families who want support, and the majority of parents do not want to criminalise their children. In terms of the policy context of CPV in the South of Ireland, CPV is absent from the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence (COSC, 2016 – 2021). Furthermore, the ‘Stopping Domestic and Sexual Violence and Abuse: A Seven Year Strategy (DHSSPS, 2016), although redefining abuse to include controlling or coercive behaviour, does not address CPV. Coogan & Lauster (2013) advise that in Southern Ireland, the Child and Family Agency has statutory responsibility for investigating and responding to child abuse case. However this agency does not have a policy or guidance on CPV. Within Northern Ireland there are no regional guidelines or policies on CPV available in the Children’s Statutory Social Services managed by the Health and Social Care Trusts. The implications of this will be discussed later.
Sociological and Historical Perspective
Macro-sociological theories such as functionalism argue that the family is a social institution which contributes positively to society (Parsons, 1951). In the UK, Edge of Care reports, policies and legislation (Children Order, 1995) all highlight that the family is the best place to raise the child, when it is safe to do so. In terms of family violence, Gelles & Straus (1979) explain how the unique characteristics of the family make it vulnerable to abuse. These variables include the amount of time family members spend together, the zero-sum game (one members loss is another members win), privacy from surveillance and social location of family members. It is not surprising then that evidence from international research suggests that that CPV ‘occurs across a variety of family circumstances and socio-economic backgrounds’ (Coogan & Lauster, 2013).
Interestingly, Gallagher, (2004) identifies two types of family structure in which CPV occurs. One type is middle class families with parents being victimised by over-entitled children. The second type involves single parent mothers assaulted by children in families that have experience of domestic violence. Although overall evidence is inconclusive regarding links between social class and CPV (Holt, 2013), OFSTED (2011b) in their research of Edge of Care families within the UK found a higher percentage of these families were of lower socio-economic status.
The feminist perspective have attempted to explanation CPV, as overwhelmingly violence perpetrated by males (Edenborough et al, 2008) with commentators such as Gallagher (2008) suggesting that patriarchal attitudes are a significant feature of such families. Whereas, Holt (2013) describes the feminist explanation as problematic due to inconsistent evidence regarding male perpetrators and warns against using such a simplistic explanation to a complex social issue.
From a socio-historical viewpoint, the family unit in Europe and America has changed over the past 100 years and this has contributed to a major change in the power dynamic within the child and parent relationship. In the UK, in the late 19th century, children were regarded as the property of their parents. In the 20th century, children acquired rights, most notably the UNCRC (1989) and the role of the state became more involved in family life. These changes resulted in a shift of power from parent to child in which the rights of both parent and child may be in conflict, which can create tensions in the relationship (Eckstein, 2004). This element will be discussed further in terms of SU’s perspectives. Furthermore, it is important to note that the social status of ‘parenthood’ has decreased due to the increase in state intervention and the social status of ‘childhood’ has increased (Lister, 2008). For adolescents there is a status ‘ambiguity’ and this can cause tensions between parent and child relations.
From a micro-sociological viewpoint, Labelling Theory (Becker, 1963) describes the negative impact on the child when a label is ascribed, such as ‘deviant’ or ‘trouble-maker’. Research by Pryor et al (2012) notes the stigmatising effects of labels such as social rejection, role expectation and lowered expectation. Thus labels may serve to reinforce the abusive behaviour, as the child may internalised the label and act accordingly, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. There have been numerous studies conducted on the impact on children who are ‘formally’ labelled eg by law enforcement agencies. However, only recently has there been more research carried out on ‘informal’ labels, given by significant others eg parents and peers, and the negative impact on the child, (Adams et al, 2003) Further research of the impact of these informal labels for Edge of Care children who abuse their parents is required.
In terms of social problems, interesting to note is the similar characteristics of Edge of Care children and those children who perpetrate violence towards their parents, such as behavioural and attendance issues at school, mental health problems and misuse substances (Routt & Anderson, 2011) (OFSTED, 2011b). Parents are also more likely to be socially isolated (Holt, 2009) (OFSTED, 2011b) as a result of their children’s behaviours. Other social factors include violence in the community and anti-social acts that can shape the child’s perception of acceptable social behaviour and how they interact with others (Proctor, 2006).
Behavioural psychology attempts to explain how behaviours are acquired, maintained and lost (Howe, 2009). Social learning theory (Bandura, 1977) explains how children experiencing abuse or domestic violence may learn to reproduce these behaviours (Patterson, 1982) and furthermore they may display this violence within the same environment in which it was learned. There may be dual directionality of abuse between parent and child, reinforcing this abusive behaviour (Agnew & Haughey, 1989). Biehal (2012:260) suggests that Edge of Care children ‘re-enacted learned abusive behaviours, as a way of dealing with anger or stress, through assaults on parents.’
Erikson’s (1965) Life-stage theory suggests that adolescence is a time of identity versus role confusion which may create turmoil and crisis. This life-stage is characterised by adolescents attempting to find their sense of self and identity, which can cause frustration for the adolescent and the parent. However, this theory does not provide insight into recent research conducted on the under-development of the adolescent brain (Douglas, 2013). This under-development suggests that adolescents are less able to control their emotional responses and engage in consequential thinking which may contribute towards CPV.
Attachment theory (Bowlby (1979) suggests that many children who experience issues in their adolescent years such as emotional and behavioural problems, aggression and social misconduct may have experienced attachment issues, loss and/or trauma in childhood. Agnew & Huguley (1989) conducted research on 1,395 adolescents and their emotional attachment to parents and found that adolescents who engaged in parent abuse were weakly attached to their parents. This research has been consistent with research carried out by Calvete et al (2014) and Paulson et al (1990) who found that children perpetrating violence on parents had both severed a secure attachment to their mothers in early childhood and lacked a close relationship with their parent. Recent research conducted by Jaffe & Christian (2014) demonstrates the evidence for chronic stress altering the biological make-up of children and the link between child maltreatment and aggressive behaviour. This research is consistent with the research carried out by Biehal (2012) that found that approximately 30% of CPV was perpetrated by children that had been maltreated and abused in childhood, not necessarily by their parents.
Coogan (2014) carried out research on referrals to Irish Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) noted that whilst the referrals were related to concerns about attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, depression and unmanageable behaviour, there was a high correlation to rate of CPV. Kennedy et al. (2010) found that adolescents who were violent toward their parents had experienced greater psychological distress than those who were not. This is an area which needs further research, as the writer notes that the majority of Edge of Care children displaying violence towards parents within the Edge of Care Placement were seeking support from CAMHS.
Research conducted by Calvete et al (2014) found that CPV was a way for children to get what they want and Holt (2013) notes this is linked to socio-historical changes resulting in a decrease of parental power. Research carried out on parenting style (Howard et al, 2010) highlights the need for parents to set consistent boundaries and consequences on their children’s behaviour to decrease CPV.
Service User Perspective
Recent qualitative research on CPV has included interviewing SU’s to gain their perspective, as Howe (2014:70) notes ‘people are better understood in terms of their own subjective experiences’. Parents describe four types of abuse – verbal, physical, emotional and economic used by their child. Research by Eckstein, (2004) describes how the abuse gradually emerges, starting with verbal abuse and then develops into physical and/or emotional abuse. Eckstein (2004) identified a ‘parent-abuse dynamic’ in which parents experience abuse by their children, such abuse gradually increases to the point in which parental control is lost and the parent feels powerless in their parenting role.
The ‘parent-abuse dynamic’ is similar to parent’s experiences described in Jacksons (2003) research, in which six mothers were interviewed and described a relationship with their child which had been ‘affectionate and uncomplicated’ becoming ‘fragile and fraught with tension’ (2003:324). Holt (2011) studied the parent perspective from information contained on online message boards. These parents described how they initially challenged the child’s abusive behaviour and when this proved unsuccessful they retreat into acceptance. The emotional impact for the parent includes feelings of fear, concern, self-blame, shame, resentment and grief (Holt, 2013).
What is notable in most research is the shame parents feel, as describe by Tew & Nixon, (2010) the ‘sense of shame and stigma that the parents often feel contributes to reducing the disclosure of being victims of their own children’. Livingston (2015) notes that many parents try to minimise the abuse by their children and try to keep it secret. Parents can face a double stigma of experiencing violence at home and stigma from parenting a problematic child (Stanko, 2003).
Biehal (2012) interviewed parents whose children were at the Edge of Care and her findings were significantly similar to the writer’s experiences working with Edge of Care children, in terms of the types of violence and parental emotional responses. Similarities include children using hitting, kicking and punishing with violence being directed at siblings and dual directionality of abuse between parent and child. Some children explained their violence as rooted in conflict with parents, current and/or past experiences of abuse.
SU Perspectives – Edge of Care Family Support Service
The writer notes the experiences of CPV from both the parent and child viewpoint.
Parent – A single mother with three adolescent boys engaging in CPV and an 8 year old girl, described how she lived in fear of violence and was putting herself at risk trying to protect her daughter. The parent was deeply ashamed of the behaviour of her children and was socially isolated from family, as they blamed her for the CPV. The parent had been advised by social services to contact police when the children became violent or absconded from the family home. When the parent reported them this often led to more violence and intimidation from the children. The parent described how she both loved and resented her children, did not want them to be criminalised and at crisis periods begged social services to take them into care. The parent felt she was being re-victimised due to her previous history of domestic violence from the father of her children. The childhood witnessing and experiences of domestic violence along with an authoritarian parenting style could have contributed to the CPV, as research suggests.
Children – The children described feeling deeply ashamed of their behaviour, unable to control their aggression and described both hating and having respect for their mother. All boys described a range of emotional problems, had a diagnosis of ADHD, which they felt had contributed to their impulsive aggression. They were all engaging in anti-social fighting within the community, taking substances and were disengaging with school.
This case is important to critically analyse, as there has been no research conducted which assesses the dynamic of multiple children abusing a parent and more research needs conducted in this area. Interestingly, the parent in this case described her children as being in a ‘pact’ with one boy being the leader and the ‘weaker boys’ following his lead in instigating the CPV.
Parent – A single mother struggling to cope with CPV from her fourth child, with the three older children experiencing Care entry. The mother described how he ‘throws things, hits out at me if I don’t give him money and threatens me that he won’t go to school if I don’t pay him’. This parent had a non-authoritarian parenting style, previous history of domestic violence, learning difficulties, physical health issues and low coping capacity.
Child – The child described how he loved his mother although she threatened him with Care entry and described him negatively comparing him to his older siblings. He described himself as ‘I’m just like my older brother who went into Care, there is something wrong with me’. The child struggled and was disengaging from school due to a lack of respect for authority.
Both these families had a range of complex social and psychological factors that had contributed towards CPV. Both parents described the CPV as intensifying as the child got older, bigger and stronger, similar to research findings of Kennair & Mellor (2007).
Local and UK provision of services and practices
In their research, Holt & Redford, (2013) noted how practitioners in the UK had inappropriate resources or policy guidance to help them with CPV. Indeed, Wilcox et al, (2015) found that professionals advised that CPV is emerging as an issue although it is not currently identified as a particular category for monitoring purposes. Therefore, CPV may be falling under the radar in terms of unmet need as a social issue affecting families and an area where professionals require training. Within Northern Ireland, resources for practitioners on CPV are lacking and have not reached the level of resources available in the rest of the UK or South of Ireland. Practitioners working with Edge of Care children within specialist teams in the NI HSCT avail of training on de-escalation techniques to support young people who may be demonstrating aggression. Practitioner can use this training to education parents on how to best communicate with their children.
However, the writer found a gap in training, where practitioners had to source information on CPV from internet sites, such as ‘Holes in the Wall’ (Bonnick, 2017) and the online version of Coogan & Lauster (2015) CPV Handbook, often in their own time, due to high case-loads. Within Southern Ireland an increasing number of resources are becoming available to practitioners largely due to the research undertaken by Coogan et al, (2011) and the implementation of the Non Violent Resistance Programme, which records positive outcomes for CPV. Furthermore, Declan Coogan (NUI Galway) ran a conference in Northern Ireland in 2016 to create awareness of CPV amongst practitioners. Further conferences need to be arranged within Northern Ireland to raise the awareness of CPV, especially in relation to those services working with Children on the Edge of Care and Statutory Intensive Adolescent Support Teams within the NI HSCT.
It is of key importance that CPV training courses for practitioners are provided within work hours. Within the writer’s placement locality there was only one local parenting resource available, the ‘Walking on Egg Shells’ Programme run by Parenting NI (2017) dealing specifically with CPV using non-violence resistance. However, the majority of families the writer worked with could not attend this programme for practical reasons, with one parent not wanting to attend due to feelings of stigma and shame, even though other parents would be attending, preferring instead to engage with online discussions from the privacy of her home.
There are a range of specialist intervention programmes available for families to attend within England and Wales. As with all programmes, practitioners need to be mindful of bias in the recording of outcomes, due to possible vested interests of programme writers and facilitators. Break4Change (2017) is a partnership between a UK Council’s Integrated Team for Families and the Youth Offending Team. According to Wilcox et al (2015) this group programme works for families in the short term, however support is still required after the programme has ended.
The Step Up programme (King County, 2017) based in the US specially aims to address CPV and youth offending. It uses ‘cognitive-behavioural skills based approach within a restorative framework’ (Holt, 2013). The outcomes of this programme have been found to significantly reduce abusive and violent behaviours, and the writer recommends this programme to be tailored to be used with Edge of Care children, demonstrating CPV and engaging with Youth Justice, Northern Ireland. Further recommendations will be discussed later.
In their research Fox & Ashmore (2015) highlight the important role that Multisystemic Therapy (MST) can have in supporting parents of Edge of Care children involved in anti-social behaviour. MST has a robust evidence base and targets the systems around the young person, enabling them to stay safety within the family home. Current models of practice in the UK to support families with Edge of Care children include Family Intervention Programmes and Family Group Conferencing. Although Ofsted (2011b) stated these intervention programme were successful in preventing children going into care, the research behind these findings have been criticised due to sampling issues Fox (2015). Research by Gregg (2010) and Fox (2008) suggest these interventions are inadequate, especially with Edge of Care children where there are youth justice and child welfare concerns.
The social work Perspective
Working directly with families on the Edge of Care experiencing CPV can be challenging for the social worker. The writer worked with families that fluctuated between periods of crisis and being settled, in which CPV could quickly escalate. However challenging the work may be, the social worker needs to work from a professional value base of Unconditional Positive Regard (Rodgers, 1957) and rights-based approach in addressing the discrimination and subsequent oppression SU’s may be experiencing.
Using Thompsons PCS Model of Oppression (2012) and applying this to both parents and children the following areas should be noted to reduce oppression for families:
Communication with parents and children needs to be open and honest, giving careful consideration to the terminology used. Wilcox et al (2015) note that many parents do not talk about their experience as parent abuse or CPV, describing instead of being unable to control their child. Terms such as ‘victim’ and ‘perpetrator’ should be avoided as they ascribe blame. Social workers should name the behaviour as CPV and avoid labelling the person (Gallagher, 2004). Furthermore, Holt (2013) notes that social workers should avoid suggesting causes for the CPV to the family, instead concentrate on solution and strengths-based (Saleebey, 2009) practice. Direct work with the family could involve de-escalation techniques, educative work and teaching new ways to communicate.
Social workers can carry out educative work with the family and support them in their understanding of what is abusive, acceptable and non-acceptable behaviour. Social workers could signpost the family to positive community resources and carry out multi-agency work with the school and other community resources to provide a holistic support for the whole family.
The writer notes that the families worked with on placement often had mixed feelings towards social services involvement. Some families felt judged and criticised by statutory social services due to their focus on child protection concerns. The parents often displayed anger and frustration with social services for not taking their children into Care in times of CPV led crisis. Therefore, statutory social services need to ensure they continue to empower families and keep communication open and honest, using a non-judgemental approach.
Recommendations and Conclusion
This assignment has provided a critical review of UK and international literature relating to CPV and children on the Edge of Care. It included historical, sociological, psychological, service user and social worker perspectives. In addition, it provided a critical evaluation of local policies, practices and service provision. Recommendations have been highlighted throughout and key recommendations are noted below:
- More research needs to be carried out specifically on CPV and successful social work interventions with Edge of Care children, exploring the possibility of using a whole family ecological approach from a child welfare perspective (Biehal, 2012).
- Further research needs carried out on the effects of multiple children within families displaying CPV and how best to intervene for successful outcomes.
- Programmes to tackle CPV to be mandated in law as part of Youth Justice Diversionary Programmes taking their lead from the US based Step Up Programme (King County, 2017)
- Early Intervention Programmes within the non-statutory sector to provide specific support to families where CPV is an issue, to prevent escalation as children get older.
- Voluntary organisations that are using Multi-systemic Therapy and Functional Family Therapy to integrate CPV interventions within these programmes.
- Practitioner training on CPV in social/care/work, educational, health and criminal justice.
- Increase the number of training and parenting programmes that are accessible to families across Northern Ireland.
Policy and Agency Procedures
- Policy on CPV needs to be developed and included in ‘child protection, education, domestic violence and child maltreatment prevention policy and action plans’ (RCPV, 2017)
- An internationally accepted definition of CPV to aid risk assessment procedures and multi-disciplinary working.
- Services and organisations need to monitor data on CPV by updating referral forms to capture CPV information and their monitoring provisions to highlight CPV as an unmet need.
- Greater multi-agency working to tackle CPV between Edge of Care Family Support Programme, CAMHS and Educational providers.
- Greater public awareness of CPV is required to minimise the stigma and shame families may be experiencing and decrease discrimination and subsequent oppression for families.
- Community organisations and resources are required to both highlight and support parents and children with CPV
- Voluntary and Charity organisations such as Respect UK to continue to highlight CPV within schools across the UK.
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