Our understanding of Child to Parent Abuse
Over the past six years we have worked with over 500 families. With permission we have collected data from families which in terms of research into CPA is quite extensive. All families are unique and can have many complicating factors which can lead onto CPA. The following information from our cases gives an indication of the common factors which are present in our clients:
- The most common factor by far is previous domestic abuse between adults in the child’s life this represents 76% of our caseload
- The most common age group for referred children aged between 13 to 15 years represents 52% of all children
- Boys represent 69% and girls 31% of referred cases
- Children with drug and alcohol issues 21%
- Children with EHCP plans 35%
- Schools are the most common referrers and the place parents seek help in the first instance
- Families in receipt of some form of benefits 60%
- Single parent families represent 69% of our caseload
- Parents with mental health/drug related issues represent 42% of our caseload
The difficulties do parent/carers face
The two quotes below were sent to us via our parent survey. The quotes sum up for us the feeling of hopelessness and the stigma that our families have to cope with. The question posed was “Do you feel there is a need for and dedicated service that deals with child to parent abuse”
“yes but would appreciate a service that does not automatically lay all the blame with the parent as a starting point”
“It would be wonderful to be able to be in touch with someone who understands the isolation, pain, feelings of hurt and betrayal, and suicidal thoughts going through my mind constantly. The difficulty of expressing and understanding how I feel to be in this position is slowly killing me”
The first quote highlights the experience of many families seeking support. The parent/carers are often the ones who are blamed for the child’s behaviour and the child seen as a product of bad parenting. Often it is very difficult to make a clear cut distinction of where the abuse started or who is abusing who. This leads to stigma and shame and is unhelpful if we want families to come forward and seek support. Parent/carers are often isolated from extended family due to the abuse and have no one to offer support. They have no one to turn to and the feelings described in the second quote can be very real for many.
How we should view child to parent abuse
The statistics we have highlighted above make it clear that the issue which is the most common factor in the families we work with is previous domestic abuse between the adult caregivers. This can affect the childs understanding of what a loving relationship should be and can have a huge impact on the parenting ability of the survivor of the domestic abuse. Parents are often helpless with how to cope with the abuse from their child. In adult relationships as difficult as it can be to leave the relationship this is very often not an option with a child. The lack of empathy and understanding often faced by parent/carers compounds the feelings of isolation and shame. We suggest that the issue should be viewed as an early intervention into adult domestic abuse. The damaging effects of domestic abuse on the families involved has been well documented. If we can work with the child earlier we can help prevent them from going on to become victims or perpetrators. There is evidence to suggest that children who witness domestic abuse have difficulty in forming relationships into adulthood due to thier increased propensity to violence and anti-social behaviour. If services begin to view child to parent abuse in this way we can prevent parent/carers feeling blamed and help end the intergenerational cycle of abuse. There are of course other factors which can lead to child to parent abuse such as mental health issues, problems at school, destructive friendship groups and of course not all young people who witness domestic abuse go on to become victims or perpetrators.
The PAARS approach to supporting families
Paars uses the Solution Focused approach when we work with our families. This way of working looks at the families strenghts and when the problem is absent or less severe. The family are in the role of expert rather than the facilitator as they will have a better undersatnding of the problems and issues they face on a daily basis. The very first meeting begins with what the families will see as their preferred outcome from the work. This is then worked towards with the whole family in small manageable steps which the families agree would be useful to them. The approach is very much a collaboration working with the families on targets that matter to them rather than being directive and forced. A number scale is used to measure progress towards the desired outcomes. This allows us to see what progress has been achieved and identify the next steps moving forward.
Please contact the FBS team for further information and to make a referral. Self-referrals are welcomed.