When a Baby Abuses a Father or mother

Source: Photo by Charl Folscher on Unsplash

When we think of domestic violence or domestic violence (the terms are often used interchangeably), we are usually referring to intimate partner violence, that is, violence (including physical, emotional, or sexual violence) perpetrated by people in intimate relationships. However, family violence includes any abuse that takes place within the framework of family structures.

One of the main forms of abuse that we often neglect is violence between children and parents. This is violence or abuse by adolescents and adult children against their parents. The concept that a child may harm a parent is stigmatized and ashamed, and parents often try to ignore, appease, or indulge in these behaviors rather than seeking support. Violence between children and parents can take different forms. This can include verbal abuse and abuse, property damage (such as punching holes in the wall), financial abuse (such as extorting money to support drug use), and physical violence, including threatened or actual violence. Occasionally, sexual violence can occur.

It has been found that child-parent violence is more common when the offending child has experienced violence perpetrated by one of the parents. While the mechanisms of this relationship are unclear, it is likely that children who have been directly abused or witnessed domestic violence have internalized patterns of using violence and control as a means of coping with difficulties. Research has shown that children often engage in violence against parents of the opposite sex, especially if that parent has been bullied by a same-sex parent (i.e. boys are more likely to be aggressive towards their mothers if their mother has been bullied by their father)). This effect is stronger in men than in women.

Children growing up in violent families often have difficulty attaching themselves to caregivers and fail to develop initial self-calming and emotional regulation skills, making them more likely to have difficulty adaptively dealing with difficult emotions and expressing anger responses. Other risk factors for this form of abuse include drug use and social mismatches, including difficulties in school and with peers. Parenting styles such as overly authoritarian and rigid parenting (“You must do what I say”) or, conversely, overly permissive parenting (“You can do whatever you want”) can contribute to child abuse. An overly authoritarian upbringing can mimic the use of harsh discipline and violence and induce humiliation and anger in children. Conversely, too revealing upbringing can lead to criminal behavior not being recognized or appropriately treated, so that these behaviors can cascade.

Difficulties associated with child-parent violence include recognizing behaviors as abusive and differentiating them from the general emotional and behavioral disorders that adolescents may exhibit. Parents often feel torn about reporting and addressing these behaviors as they try to maintain the relationship and help their child maintain their own safety. Service systems are often set up to focus on dealing with intimate partner violence so that parents do not know where to look for support.

Identifying and combating violence between children and parents are similar to those used in dealing with other difficult behaviors. While some disrespectful behavior in adolescence can be normative (e.g. slamming doors or shouting), this behavior needs to be addressed if it is repeated frequently, escalates in frequency or type, causes physical harm, or makes you afraid.

Because of the nature and extent of the behaviors (e.g., verbal abuse interventions are likely to be less intense than physical violence interventions) and the age of the child, it is important to seek appropriate support. This support can include schools, family therapists, individual therapists for both the child and the parent, organizations that support violence in the family, or the police and justice system. While it can be difficult for parents to acknowledge that they have experienced abusive behavior from a child, it is important to identify and address these behaviors early on, avoid escalation, and support a younger person in addressing problematic behaviors and relationship patterns .

Comments are closed.