CHILD-TO-PARENT VIOLENCE (CPV) is estimated to occur in up to 1 in 10 families. ITV News reports that a growing number of people are experiencing parental abuse by children. Experts say that the incidence of child-to-parent violence increased during the coronavirus pandemic. Due to the stigma associated with this most taboo form of domestic abuse, two out of three parents experiencing child-to-parent violence are unable to get the support they need.
It should be noted that children can be used as part of a wider campaign of coercive and controlling behavior waged by one parent against the other in order to isolate them. Dr. Evan Stark, author of the book Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life, describes how batterers weaponize children, explaining that older children are sometimes used as “co-abusers” in dysfunctional families. It is in the abusers interest to undermine the targeted person in their parental role and willfully sabotage their relationship with their children.
Dr. Joanna North specializes in providing support for people affected by child-to-parent violence, also known as child/adolescent to parent violence and abuse (CAPVA). She says it happens far more than one might imagine. She underscores that the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns exacerbated stressors many young people are experiencing, leaving them frustrated and angry – even children who were not normally aggressive.
Because of the stigma associated with child-to-parent violence, it can be difficult for parents to seek support.
“Parents often find themselves blamed and shamed,” says Doctoral Researcher Thien Trang Nguyen Phan, “It’s essentially a lose-lose situation for parents because they often get that blaming language when they try to get help.”
Michelle John is the founder of PEGS – Parental Education Growth Support , a service provider for people experiencing child-to-parent violence. The organization receives hundreds of referrals of people experiencing parental abuse by children. PEGS recognizes that child-to-parent violence should be treated like any other kind of domestic violence.
She explains, “We would never, ever send an intimate partner victim of domestic abuse on a program on how to be a better partner – it just wouldn’t happen. But, automatically, parents are told ‘you’re at fault, you’re to blame.”