'It’s like being held hostage': Parents facing abuse from own children

Watch ITV News Reporter Lauren Hall's piece in full

Parents facing abuse from their own children have told us about their struggle to get support, with parents often feeling judged by those they turn to for help.

Child-to-parent abuse is thought to affect as many as one in 10 families, with parents being subjected to violence, intimidation and coercive control.

One mother told ITV News she is often attacked by her 11-year-old son: "As he’s got older, I’ve seen a real increase in violent and challenging behaviour, and that’s towards myself and also he has a younger sister as well. It’s really very much like living in a domestic violent relationship but with somebody that you can’t actually leave."

One mother spoke to our reporter Lauren Hall and says she is often attacked by her son who displays violent and challenging behaviour Credit: ITV News

Another parent told us about the abuse they experience from their daughter: “It's like being held hostage by her.  

"She tries to control us… hits, kicks, rips hair out, throws things at us, destroys our things… we live in fear of consequences, treading on eggshells all the time, fearful of what she'll do next."

It’s more common than you might think and is likely to have been made worse by the pandemic and successive lockdowns, according to Dr Joanna North who works with families experiencing child-to-parent abuse.

"Over the pandemic, young people had a lot to put up with. They couldn’t really make sense of not being social, they were frustrated, they were stuck in – a horrible experience for them really," she said.

"I think some children would have felt very frustrated and wanted to lash out and use violence – perhaps children that wouldn’t normally do that."

Doctoral Researcher Thien Trang Nguyen Phan explained that it can be very difficult for parents to reach out for support.

"Parents often find themselves blamed and shamed," she said, adding: "It’s essentially a lose-lose situation for parents because they often get that blaming language when they try to get help."

The organisation Parental Education Growth Support (PEGS) was set up a few years ago due to the lack of support available.

It now deals with around 100 referrals each month. Its Founding Director, Michelle John, told us attitudes need to change and victims need to be treated in the same way as those experiencing other types of domestic abuse.

"Don’t say to them ‘go on a parenting programme’ and say that ‘it’s your fault, you’ve done something.’

"We would never, ever send an intimate partner victim of domestic abuse on a programme on how to be a better partner – it just wouldn’t happen. But, automatically, parents are told ‘you’re at fault, you’re to blame’."

The organisation PEGS was set up to help those experiencing child-to-parent abuse. It deals with around 100 referrals each month Credit: ITV News

This is a sentiment shared by another parent we spoke to who experiences abuse from her teenage daughter.

She said it is time to get rid of the stigma surrounding child-to-parent abuse.

"This stigma needs to go. Children are very capable of holding a knife up to your throat, of threatening to kill you, of making you barricade yourself in your own room for hours and hours and hours on end for your own safety.

"You know, this does happen, this is happening and it happened to me."

If you have been affected by child-to-parent abuse, you can contact PEGS - Parental Education Growth Support for further advice and support.