Parental Abuse

Children’s violence towards parents is not perceived as sufficiently dangerous to merit as great a focus as domestic violence and indeed it may not be.  However, the incidence of parental abuse is definitely on the increase.

In earlier years of my work, as a drug and alcohol counsellor working in homes where children lived with parents who were substance dependent, I do not recall more than a handful of children who behaved violently towards their parents.  In more recent years the number has increased and it alarms me that there is such a paucity of services equipped, or funded, to help parents who find themselves in such distressing circumstances.  In the past year I worked intensively with a mother of an eleven year old daughter who was so violent that mum locked herself in her bedroom as she listened to the child cause serious damage to the rental property: punching holes in doors,  throwing items into windows, damaging the TV and stereo system, and screaming loudly to attract attention from people outside the home.

There were two other single parents experiencing parental abuse which required police intervention and the police applied for an Apprehended Violence Order (AVO) on the parents’ behalf, against the child.   Another incident involved a ten year old boy physically assaulted his mother in a supermarket car lot.  Bystanders tried to intervene but were threatened by the child.  The police were called and removed the child from the scene.

There is not a lot of research, because of parents’ reluctance to report, but the little I did find had similar points to make in relation to the possible increase of parental abuse.

  1. More women are leaving violent men, which is a good thing, but women become vulnerable as their children have witnessed their parents violence towards each other
  2. Parents are more indulgent of their children, permissive and democratic.  Being raised in a democratic environment is generally a good thing but for some children this could become a serious problem.
  3. Societal changes have shifted in numerous ways many of which affect children.  We no longer value older people, are less responsive to authority, we value individualism and independence, changes in parenting styles, media culture, the internet, accessibility to gadgets with which to be constantly bombarded with information and knowledge. To quote one of the sources I have drawn from:

“Media culture (playing an increasingly large role in children’s lives) encourages kids to be demanding, over-entitled, bratty consumers with little respect for age or authority and a general air of nihilistic negativity” 

The Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse Topic Paper:  Adolescent Violence Towards Parents cites four different types of parental abuse:

  1. Physical abuse:  hitting, punching, shoving, breaking things, punching holes in walls, throwing things and spitting;
  2. Psychological abuse:  intimidating the parent, making them fearful;
  3. Emotional abuse:  maliciously playing mind games, trying to make the parents think he or she is crazy; making unrealistic demands on parents, such as insisting they drop what they are doing to comply with their demands; lying, running away from home and staying away all night; making manipulative threats, such as threading to run away, commit suicide or otherwise hurt themselves without really intending to do so; and controlling the running of the household.
  4. Financial abuse:  stealing money or parents’ belongings; selling possessions – theirs or their parents’; destroying the home or parents’ belongings; incurring debts the parents must cover; demanding parents buy things they don’t feel they can afford.

There is never a single cause of parental abuse although being male is the biggest influence and the number of girls involved in these behaviours is steadily increasing.  Mothers are the most common victims although fathers come in for their share of abuse from their children with children claiming to abuse their fathers more frequently than mothers.  The reason?  Apparently it is embarrassing to admit to abusing your mother but abusing your father is seen by peers as something to boast about …

I wonder where we’re headed?


4 thoughts on “Parental Abuse

  1. Oh, this is so terrible, and to think they are the future if society. We so desperately need good old fashioned values back into homes and the younger generations! I think the media should bear some of the responsibility for the disintegration of our basic values of respect for your elders, consideration for others and social conscience.


  2. I blame social media, having experienced first hand the impact it has on my youngest child I quickly realised the invasive beast that the internet has spawned. No amount of positive parenting, discipline, consequences or otherwise was effective in dealing with the issues I faced. The faceless crowd on sites such as Tumblr and Snapchat has a far greater impact on our vulnerable teenagers and tweens than we realise. When we were younger we only had to face gossip and peer pressure from the people we interacted with, now our children can be “judged” on a global scale. Similarly our children can “judge” their parents and be empowered by the knowledge of what their “rights” are. Teachers are disempowered, social welfare allows them to leave home well before they are emotionally ready to cope with independent living. Yes the namby pamby, touchy feely parenting style of today can be partly to blame, but the invasive, invisible social media sites have a far greater impact than we ever had to face. I don’t have a solution to this problem. All I can hope for is that today’s teenagers grow up to understand and find solutions to this problem that I struggle to comprehend.


    • It is a thought provoking matter which will continue to impact society until something changes. The issues you highlight may well be perpetuating factors in this dilemma. When educators are imparting the rights of children and the wider community they are omitting the most important element of rights which is they also come with responsibilities …


  3. Unfortunately it is the permissiveness of society, along with the far too restrictive laws against disciplining, children .that has led to young people gaining control. Their parents think they are being too hard onthem if they try to control their kids’ bad behaviours. By the time they might realise their refusal to place limits and enforce thoselimits has created monsters, it is too late. Lack of parenting skills isn’t limited to the lower socioeconomic spectrum either, but wealthier parents canoften pay off their kids or send them to schools to acquire the self-discipline they cannot enforce themselves.

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