We must tackle the issue of child to parent violence
Labour MP Toby Perkins writes ahead of his Westminster Hall debate later today on ‘Child to parent violence’ which affects 300,000 families in the UK and up to 30% of adoptive parents.
Today I am hosting a debate in Parliament on the much overlooked issue of child to parent violence.
It is a shocking reality that recent research shows that as many as 30% of adoptive parents and over 300,000 families overall live in households in which regular violence by children on their parents occurs.
It is a truism that ‘hurt children hurt’ and there is widespread evidence that children that have been badly damaged in the early years are more likely to be violent themselves. But for parents like those two of my constituents, who have experienced the feeling of being frightened of their own children there is no hiding place and precious little help from the state in this difficult circumstances.
The research also challenged the preconception that this is an adolescent age issue, by revealing that many of the perpetrators of child to parent violence were actually in the 7-11 age bracket. Often younger children who have been damaged by their life experiences will lash out and whilst their parents may at that age by capable of ‘fighting back’ the damage that this does to their relationship with their violent child and the wider family is incalculable.
Parenting is a deeply personal experience and many of us experience that feeling that our parenting is imperfect or even inadequate when judged against a media ideal. Yet to admit that we are actually physically scared of our children and the impact that their violence is having on parents and the wider family is incredibly difficult.
In addition many parents fear that admitting that they are struggling to cope will lead them down a route of having their parenting questioned, and a process that they lose control of will begin, so they often stay silent to the detriment of their whole family.
The founding stone of child social work in modern Britain is the Children Act. This puts the protection of children at its heart. In the case of child to parent violence often the child’s welfare is on the face of it, not jeopardised, and there seems to be very little training or recognition of child to parent violence emanating from or being directed to the social work profession.
Children who are violent towards their parents, or out of control and vandalising their home are being failed by current social work practices and their embattled parents even more so.
So future social work education needs to have a much greater focus on the issue of child to parent violence; recognising that it isn’t a sign of poor parenting, but a symptom of the damage done to children usually in advance of their being adopted. It needs to recognise that protecting children also requires their parents to be supported with strategies to keep them and their families safe and ensure that parents and children are believed when they raise issues like this.
I will be asking the Minister to undertake greater research in to this whole area, and to ensure that the document to support people qualifying to become social workers includes a section on child to parent violence too.
Child to parent violence is ruining lives for too many families and mustn’t be kept hidden from public view anymore.
Toby Perkins is the Labour MP for Chesterfield