Saturday, June 12, 2010

Children Who Abuse Parents

The number of children who abuse their parents is small yet significant.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics more than 9,000 crimes of violence against parents (3,380 completed acts and 5,750 threats) occurred in 2007.
Parental abuse, also called silent abuse, often goes unreported due to the shame and guilt felt by abused parents.  Parents feel they cannot reveal this family secret because their child may be punished/taken from the home and their parenting skills may be questioned.  The vast majority of parental abuse involves a male child abusing his mother or stepmother.  Abuse usually begins when the child is 12-16 years old and severity depends on the child's strength.  Stronger children rely on verbal abuse (threats, intimidation, manipulation) whereas weaker children use more physical forms (biting, hitting, kicking). 
Research highlights contributors to parental abuse:
- Role models of masculinity based on power and control
- Witnessing a father/partner/male abuse women
- Children who were physically or sexually abused themselves
- Controlling or overly indulgent parenting practices
- Poverty or extreme poverty
- High levels of stress
- Mental health issues (schizophrenia, bipolar, ADD, learning disabilities)
- Substance abuse
- Children who had been bullied by peers

What can parents do if their children become violent?
Safety - The first priority is safety for the parent and the child.  Parents should seek a safe environment just like any victim of an abusive situation.  

Seek help - It is important to resist the urge to keep the abuse a secret and/or feel responsible for the behavior.  Parental abuse is not going to disappear on its own and there is a high likelihood that it will increase. Qualified professionals can intervene and provide crisis management.  

Be patient - Repairing the parental-child relationship will take time. Parents will need to process their own emotions about the abuse while children receive necessary intervention.  Have realistic goals of how and when the relationship will get better.

Local Sheriff's Office or Extension office:
National Domestic Violence Hotline