In a new U.K. study, researchers have provided detailed insights and recommendations to help police recognize, report and analyze instances of violence from children towards parents. Northumbria Police in the northeast of England commissioned the study so they could better understand the concept of child-to-parent violence and the associated risks.
A research team from Northumbria University and the Children’s Emotional Language and Thinking (CEL&T) organization began working with Northumbria Police in 2018 to investigate what is sometimes called Childhood Challenging Violent or Aggressive Behaviour (CCVAB).
The study highlighted the need to formally recognize these incidents within law enforcement and social services. Their aim was to develop new ways to prevent such abuse in the home and provide appropriate support to families.
“It’s hard for victims to report abusive partners — let alone their own child,” said Detective Chief Inspector Louise Cass-Williams, who described the research as “ground-breaking.”
“Child to parent abuse exists in many forms, it can be emotional or financial, it can see children damaging property or their home and, of course, it can be physical and violent. It’s in a parent’s nature to protect their child but sometimes it’s the parent, sibling or family member who needs to be protected from the child,” she said.
“This research is a vital first step in understanding this aspect of abuse more than ever before and making sure parents, carers and family members have the best possible support from police and every other agency. It is important that when dealing with cases of child to parent violence, there is a focus by police on appropriate intervention by partners rather than progressing solely down a criminal justice route.”
The findings, which have now been made public, highlight that addressing CCVAB requires a multi-agency partnership approach.
However, the researchers found a lack of coordination and information sharing between health, mental health, education, social care and criminal justice services. This means that police are often unaware of known concerns or follow-up actions but are still required to respond to calls.
In particular, the team found that the association between school exclusion and attendance and incidents of CCVAB in the home requires further examination. They also identified the need for adult and child safeguarding teams to work more closely in these cases.
The study also recommends that recognizing and recording CCVAB is a vital first step in understanding the extent and profile of this form of abuse. While the study found that most instances of such violence were carried out by teens, researchers suggested that earlier incidents when the child was younger and physically smaller may not have been reported.
Northumbria Police became the first force in the country to manually record these cases in March 2019; overall, they responded to more than 500 calls in the first nine months.
“We know that there are a lot of families living with this in silence,” said Jeannine Hughes, a senior lecturer in Northumbria University’s Department of Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing.
“This is a form of abuse that exists, and we need to be able to provide targeted interventions to help people who find themselves in this situation. The police get called when it reaches crisis point, which is too late.”
“As much as the police want to be able to help, we really need local authorities, health and education partners to be working together on an early response before such behaviours are entrenched. Without recording it accurately we can’t fully understand the scale of the problem or the underlying causes of this form of abuse.”
“The recording of these statistics will help us to develop a much better understanding of the underlying causes of CCVAB and the key links to adversity. Importantly, it will also help agencies to collect the dots between cases and bring a focus back to local authorities and others.”
“This will lead to a growing recognition for all those affected that this is something that many other families are experiencing and so they should not be afraid to talk about it and ask for help,” said Hughes, who has been researching domestic abuse for two decades and has a background in youth offending social work.
Al Coates MBE, Director of CEL&T, said “While the police service is willing to support families, they are being called out to incidents that they should not be called out to because of their need to respond. They are the service that can’t say ‘no’ and families are forced to turn to them when other services have not met their needs or are not available.”
“Our report builds on a steadily growing body of research that considers the underlying issues that impact on children who display extreme aggressive and violent behaviour. During this process we’ve been given access to records and, having worked as a social worker, I thought I’d become hardened to the challenges that children and families face.”
“Yet I confess to being rendered speechless reading some of the incident reports. Stories of incredibly vulnerable children with mental ill health, special educational needs, substance misuse, adversity, trauma and more are all playing out in homes across the region.”
Source: Northumbria University