Children's violence increasing problem in families


Such violence is "the last taboo" of family life and goes largely unreported as parents attempt to protect their aggressive offspring from authorities, they say.

In Britain, an increasing number of parents are ringing the charity Family Lives about their children's violent behaviour.

In the past year, calls about verbal aggression rose by 4 per cent. Abusive behaviour by young people against their parents ranged from "verbal abuse, power tactics, emotional control and intimidation to physical abuses of kicking, spitting, punching, slapping, destruction of property, use of weapons and threats to kill", says restorative justice specialist Lynette Robinson.

Although many of the families affected are single mothers raising adolescent sons, the problem is found among families in all income groups and affects married couples as well, she says.

Some are forced to hand over large sums of money to their teenagers because of fear of retribution to themselves and their other children. Despite such abusive behaviour, parents emphasised how much they love their children and how caring and thoughtful they are when not having violent outbursts.

Research in the United States suggests that as much as 18 per cent of two-parent families and 29 per cent of single-parent families may suffer at the hands of violent children. Family Lives chief executive Jeremy Todd says: "There are many reasons that can explain why children behave in an aggressive way at home. Answers commonly include an inadequate approach to parenting, a lack of respect, sudden and unpredictable changes to the family routine, parental domestic violence, or bullying at school which causes the anger and hurt to spill out at home."

Sandra Ashley, director of a Hertfordshire practical parenting scheme, believes child-on-parent domestic violence is "seriously under-reported" and a "clear indication of family breakdown".

"We have found that this type of domestic violence usually slips through the statutory agencies' net because they focus on either violence by adults against children, or on adult-to-adult domestic violence," she says.

"We have found that parents and carers are often unwilling to ask any statutory agencies for help with this problem, for fear of their children becoming known to the police, or of their being taken into care."

Ann Cowey, a family support worker at a Family Lives project in Newcastle, says her project has supported the parents of violent children as young as 2 but that the number of cases peak at the ages of 10 or 11.

- Hamilton News

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