Child to parent violence ‘increases during lockdown’

Fiona Simpson
Thursday, August 27, 2020

Incidents of violence towards parents by children and adolescents increased over the lockdown, new research suggests.

Parents reported more incidents of violence during lockdown, research shows. Picture: Adobe Stock
Parents reported more incidents of violence during lockdown, research shows. Picture: Adobe Stock

Some 70 per cent of parents involved in research commissioned by the University of Oxford said that incidents had increased between April and June while strict lockdown restrictions were in place.

Experiences of adolescent to parent violence in the Covid-19 lockdown report includes the experiences of 104 parents with children, aged 10 to 19, who have experienced child and adolescent to parent violence before lockdown.

Researchers asked parents and social workers “open-ended” questions about their experiences during lockdown as part of “quick” research about the impact of lockdown on the issue.

Parents said lockdown pressures had made the problem worse.

Being confined at home with the young person was described by one parent as having a “cabin fever effect” and another said lockdown had created a “pressure cooker” environment in an already volatile household.

One parent said: “Everything is amplified, there’s no escape, and it’s not just the person being hurt who’s affected, it’s everyone that sees and hears it. The other children are traumatised by seeing us hurt.”

Some 69 per cent of social workers polled said they had seen an increase in referrals relating to child and adolescent to parent violence during the first few months of lockdown. 

In addition, 64 per cent of social workers said that the severity of violence during such incidents had increased.

The report shows that the majority of children involved in the research are aged between 12 and 16 with 72 per cent reported as being male and 73 per cent reported to be white.

Some 92 per cent of parents experiencing child and adolescent to parent violence were female, the report shows. Of these, 49 per cent said they were the child or adolescent’s mother and 38 per cent were adoptive mothers.

Despite an increase in incidents during lockdown, just 43 of 102 parents said they had reported their child to the police - 28 of these reports were made during lockdown.

Researchers also highlight a reduction in face to face support during lockdown among factors behind an increase in incidents.

One mother described her son as “returning to pre-therapy levels of violence” during lockdown.

The report comes amid calls from across the sector for investment in mental health support for young people as lockdown measures ease.

In a series of recommendations, the report calls for increased planning and support from the government and local authorities, to prevent young people being criminalised and families being left to cope alone in the event of a second lockdown.

Professor of criminology Rachel Condry, one of the authors of the report, said: “Child and adolescent to parent violence has tended to be a ‘hidden’ form of family violence, both by families who experience stigma and shame for the actions of their child, and because of a lack of recognition in government policy and service planning. 

“A child using violence in the family presents an opportunity – an opportunity to intervene, and an opportunity to prevent the child from becoming an adult perpetrator.”

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