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Six in 10 families living with child to parent violence experience daily attacks, according to new study

Child to Parent Violence Photo: ITV News

By Kris Jepson

Exclusive: New research has found six in 10 families who live with child to parent violence and aggression (CPVA) experience daily attacks.

The research, which has been published in a report called 'Let's Talk About: Child to Parent Violence and Aggression', has been compiled by two professionals in Sunderland who are experienced in childhood behaviours.

The report calls for the government guidance for professionals and families who live with CPVA, which was last updated in 2015, to be amended so families are better supported by the authorities.

The Home Office told ITV News it will deal with the issue of CPVA as part of its up and coming Domestic Abuse Bill.

Data was collected from a survey of 538 families from across the country, including 53 per cent of non-birth families (adoptive, foster, kinship carers, guardians) and 47 per cent birth families.

Report co-author, Al Coates, told ITV News the results are "shocking".

I think this is a really shocking phenomena and that all levels of social care, police, health and education should really wake up to the fact that this is going on with families that they are working with on a day by day basis. It's really worrying that those families feel so isolated, that it's taboo, that they don’t know where to seek support, they don’t know how to seek support and they are incredibly vulnerable.

– Al Coates, Report co-Author
  • Watch Kris Jepson's exclusive report here:

One mother who took part in the study told ITV News the violence and aggression she experiences from her child often makes her "scared" of him.

'Helen' lives in the North East of England and we have changed her voice and disguised her appearance to protect her identity.

He’ll change with a flick of a switch. It comes very suddenly and it's sort of from naught to 100 instantly. He just lashes out. My husband and I have both been marked. I’ve had a bruise on my face before, bruises on my legs and arms. When my husband goes to work I’m actually quite scared of him. He’s too unpredictable. If you ring children's services and say 'I need help', there’s an instant judgement that you’re not coping or you need parenting classes and it makes you feel like you’ve failed as a parent.

– 'Helen'

The headline findings include:

  • 61 per cent of families said CPVA occurs daily
  • 54 per cent of families with one child displaying CPVA experience physical violence with a weapon
  • 29 per cent of families with one child displaying CPVA also experience physical violence with a weapon against a sibling
  • 40 per cent of families experience an increase in CPVA during holidays, birthdays, Christmas
  • 39 per cent of families experience CPVA from children aged 6-9 years old
  • 54 per cent of families living with CPVA experience violence from under 10s, compared to 46 per cent of families experiencing violence from adolescents
  • 53 per cent of non-birth families (adopters, fosterers, kinship carers etc) live with CPVA, compared to 47 per cent of birth families
CPVA Credit: ITV News

Child psychiatrist Dr Stephen Westgarth explained that children who display violent and aggressive behaviour may have underlying issues.

There might be issues of the temperament. There might be something about the way the brain is wired with autism, but there are also environmental factors. I think a number of these children have been fostered, adopted and have had very difficult early year experiences and traumas, neglect, abuse, violence that a child experiences, which is why they get put into care, will end up having an impact sometimes on how they relate to other people.

– Dr Stephen Westgarth

The report highlighted several areas that could be improved to enhance support and help for families living with child to parent violence and aggression.

The report's recommendations include:

  • For Home Office guidance to commence with younger children - Currently it is exclusively focused on adolescents, but according to the study by far the worst offending age range is 6-9 years old, accounting for 39 per cent of all violence and aggression.
  • For Child Safety Orders to be reviewed and amended to protect both child and parent/carer - Currently Child Safety Orders can only be applied to under 10s who are violent outside the home. Researchers suggest they be applied for acts of violence in the home in order to prevent escalation or the behaviour becoming entrenched.
  • For the language and education of Child Safety Orders to be amended to empower parents to have the confidence to report CPVA episodes - Currently, there is a reluctance from parents to report CPVA episodes, because the legal position for a parent reporting CPVA has negative connotations. Child Safeguarding boards often connect acts of violence by children as a direct consequence of bad parenting, according to the report.
  • Training/education for social workers/Child Safeguarding Boards/others in authority
  • CPVA needs to be recognised and addressed within support services as a multi-agency approach, to avoid children ending up in the youth justice system and failing in school
Report Credit: ITV News

The Home Office told ITV News it has launched an £8m fund for children affected by domestic abuse, which gives organisations the chance to bid for money for projects designed to intervene early to help children who have been directly or indirectly affected by domestic abuse.

This could be children who have been exposed to domestic abuse in the family home, who are experiencing domestic abuse in their own intimate partner relationships, or crucially it can also be used to support families who have a child that is "demonstrating harmful behaviours" to those closest to them.

We are determined to ensure anyone facing the threat of domestic abuse in any form has somewhere to turn to. This Government will introduce a landmark Domestic Abuse Bill which will protect and support victims and make sure agencies effectively respond to domestic abuse. The Bill will create a legal definition of domestic abuse to ensure it is properly understood in all its forms as more than just isolated incidents of violence.

– Home Office Spokesperson