The ‘hidden problem’ of adolescent-to-parent violence highlighted by disturbing new research

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A disturbing new study has highlighted the “hidden” problem of children physically attacking their own parents.

Researchers from Oxford University’s Centre for Criminology have defined adolescent-to-parent violence as “physical violence, threats of violence and criminal damage towards parents or carers by children aged 13 to 19”.

As well as being physically assaulted, parents reported that their teenage children had smashed up property, kicked holes in doors, broken windows, thrown things at them and made threats. Many were living in fear of their own children.

During the course of the study the Oxford researchers analysed data compiled by the London Metropolitan Police and found that in one year alone (2009/10), there were nearly 1,900 reported cases of teenagers committing violent assaults against their parents or carers.

Son-to-mother violence was the most common, with 87 per cent of suspects being male and 77 per cent of victims being female.

The report, part of a three-year research project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, said that the reasons for the teenagers’ explosive behaviour included substance abuse, mental health problems, learning difficulties and a family history of domestic violence or self-harm.

It also pointed out that adolescent-to-parent violence affected families from all types of backgrounds.

In interviews with the Oxford team, parents who had been attacked reported a myriad of emotions, from shame to blaming themselves. Many said they feared the consequences for their children if they reported the problem.

Lead researcher Dr Rachel Condry said: “We provide some of the first evidence from the UK that this hidden and complex form of violence exists, and needs to be properly recognised with a co-ordinated policy response.

“This is a complex issue. Society does not want to over-criminalise young people, yet we cannot continue to have a blank page on this issue.”

The research team’s first report has been published in the online version of the journal Criminology and Criminal Justice. Visit http://crj.sagepub.com


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