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Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse

The cross-Government definition of domestic violence and abuse is any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse. While this definition applies to those aged 16 or above, APVA can equally involve children under 16, and the advice in this document reflects this.

There is currently no legal definition of adolescent to parent violence and abuse. However, it is increasingly recognised as a form of domestic violence and abuse and, depending on the age of the child, it may fall under the government’s official definition of domestic violence and abuse.

In 2014, Kirklees adopted a local definition as follows: A pattern of behaviour where teenagers, young girls or boys use physical, psychological, emotional and financial abuse over time to the extent that parents/carers live in fear of their child.

It is important to recognise that APVA is likely to involve a pattern of behaviour. This can include physical violence from an adolescent towards a parent and a number of different types of abusive behaviours, including damage to property, emotional abuse, and economic/financial abuse.

Violence and abuse can occur together or separately. Abusive behaviours can encompass, but are not limited to, humiliating language and threats, belittling a parent, damage to property and stealing from a parent and heightened sexualised behaviours.

Patterns of coercive control are often seen in cases of APVA, but some families might experience episodes of explosive physical violence from their adolescent with fewer controlling, abusive behaviours.

Although practitioners may be required to respond to a single incident of APVA, it is important to gain an understanding of the pattern of behaviour behind an incident and the history of the relationship between the young person and the parent. This pattern of behaviour creates an environment where a parent lives in fear of their child and often curtails their own behaviour in order to avoid conflict, contain or minimise violence and / or abuse.

Key Principles

  • Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse is a safeguarding issue and requires a multi-agency safeguarding response
  • Assumptions should not be made that the parent is responsible for their child’s behaviour (i.e. due to their parenting style)
  • It is important that the young person takes responsibility for their behaviour
  • Unnecessary criminalisation of the young person should be avoided, though it may be necessary for the police to be involved to maintain safety.
  • Parents may be reluctant to disclose for fear of the response, they may not want their child to get into trouble, be judged as a poor parent or have their child taken into care
  • There is no single explanation for APVA and the pathways appear to be complex
  • APVA affects all levels of society
  • Safety planning is a key component of any response to APVA
  • Opportunities for both parents and children to talk about their experiences should be create
  • APVA is a whole family issue

Local Resources

Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse Guidance

Step Up Kirklees is a local programme that uses a cognitive behavioural, skills based approach to help teens stop the use of violent and abusive behaviours and teaches non-violent, respectful ways of communicating and resolving conflict with family members. It can be delivered on a one to one basis, by key workers as part of their ongoing work with young people and their families or in a family learning group work setting where parents and their children come together in groups of up to ten families.

For further information or to discuss a family’s suitability for the programme, contact Stronger Families Consultant for the Step Up programme – Sam Scaddan prior to the referral.

National Resources

Home Office (2015) Information guide: adolescent to parent violence and abuse (APVA)

Useful resources for Parents / Carers

Teen Violence at Home Family Lives

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