When we speak about domestic violence, many people can identify criteria or define what it is, although, this is usually done so in relation to intimate-partner violence (IPV). Another aspect of domestic violence is Child-to-Parent Violence (CPV) or Adolescent-to-Parent Violence and Abuse (APVA). These two terms refer to any violent or abusive behaviour that is exhibited by a child or adolescent upon their parents or care giver/s, and even possibly transcended onto sibling/s.
As can be said for cases pertaining to intimate-partner violence, child-to-parent violence or adolescent-to-parent violence and abuse do not discriminate. In other words, it can be found all around us, irrespective of one’s economic status, gender, sexuality, race, age etc. In this regard, research has identified that there can be several reasons why CPV or APVA take place. Such reasons can be related but are not solely limited to; exposure to any form of domestic violence within the household which may therefore lead to modelling of certain behaviours, situations experienced which are deemed as traumatic for the child or adolescent – adverse childhood experiences, experiencing loss or grief, parenting styles exhibited by the caregiver/s, the way the family unit communicates and deals with emotions, or even issues pertaining to mental health or addictions.
In turn, any one of these underlying issues can be the backdrop for the triggers that set off violent behaviours. Hence, by exploring and understanding the underlying causes and triggers, we are then better able to work on regulating emotions and controlling violent behaviours. It is important to remember that typically violence becomes worse over time and hence specific patterns of behaviours will not simply disappear unless we address them.
The effects of violence, of any sort, brought into any household setting, carry with it various consequences and stressors upon the family unit. With regards to CPV or APVA, this is no different as parents or caregivers might often be in denial of what is actually happening. It is not easy to accept that your child or the young person you are caring for is violent towards you. You may be experiencing feelings of isolation or despair; feelings of helplessness with regards to a way forward; whether to report or not; feelings of fear and worry towards your child or other people within the household. There may also be feelings pertaining to a sense of failure as a caregiver or a ‘bad’ parent; a sense of loss, towards the child you once knew, or loss of friends or family who are unable to assist. All these feelings, amongst others, may add to stress within the household, possibly within partner relationships, which could lead to further arguments, on how to best handle the situation.
As adolescents move towards an independent life, it is common for them to challenge boundaries with caregivers and people of authority. However, if adolescents during this developmental phase become violent and abusive, exhibiting behaviours pertaining to power, control, coercion, intimidation or even threats, it is important to seek professional support.
At Agenzija Appogg, more specifically the service STOP! The Violence and Abuse, we aim at offering support to families encountering issues pertaining to Child-to-Parent Violence or Adolescent-to-Parent Violence and Abuse. One-to-one sessions are carried out between a professional and the minor/young adult (aged between 13-25) who has been exhibiting a pattern of such behaviours, whilst the parents or caregiver/s are also provided with support to better manage what is taking place at home. The aim is to work with the family unit to determine what the triggering factors are, and to support everyone involved to reduce or regulate these contributing factors to ultimately create a more stable, violence-free, home environment.
Ilona Deguara, psychotherapist, STOP! The Violence & Abuse Service, Agenzija Appogg, FSWS
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