A recent podcast discusses questions about child and adolescent to parent violence and abuse (CAPA): what it is, how to identify it compared to other behavioural concerns, when and why this form of abuse occurs, and how social workers should respond?
Helen Bonnick (a social worker specialised in CAPA), and Jane Griffiths (Parent-child therapist), shared their experiences in a podcast: link.
Jane Griffiths said ‘adolescent-to-parent abuse is any behaviour used by a young person to control, dominate or coerce parents. It is intended to threaten and intimidate, and puts the family safety at risk’. It's common that children and teenagers challenge the boundaries and test parents’ limit. The issue arises when parents are in fear, or when the relationship changes to an abusive one. And not just once, but in a repeating pattern.
The typical assumption stands that ‘poor parenting’ is to blame, but experts often see parents are trying very hard to control the situation. For child care professionals, the question is if an early trauma or something in the child’s development, or later trauma (e.g. grief or hard to deal with emotions) contributed to the situation. They are many victims of domestic abuse or mental illness. Learning disabilities can be in the background as well. But often things come together for these vulnerable children who are suffering and want to let adults know about their distress and that they need help.
Working with families we should help them understand where power lies and how to take back control. We should also help to define clear boundaries and small changes that will let the child know, ‘I am the parent. I am going to take responsibility and I am going to take this relationship back to the place where it needs to be’. Only after many conversations and in certain circumstances should the police be involved as well.