Hidden abuse of young people towards their parents and carers - report

Merseyside’s Violence Reduction Partnership has united with partners from across the region to focus on tackling the hidden issue of parents being abused by their children.

Child and Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse (CAPVA) is a form of family abuse which involves a child using harmful behaviours towards a parent or carer to get their own way or hurt, control, or punish them.

The regional event (December 8, 2024) was held to share the findings of a new report produced by Liverpool John Moores University’s (LJMU) Public Health Institute.

The study was undertaken to shine a spotlight on the issue and extent of CAPVA, helping professionals to understand the triggers and causes, and the impact on children, families, and the wider community.

Crucially, it was also undertaken to review the existing responses to this type of family abuse and their effectiveness, to help increase and enhance the support for those affected and protect those in the future using a whole-family approach.

The research made some key findings:

  • Nearly 65% of parents and 85% of professionals agree that CAPVA is a problem in Merseyside, with a significant proportion of practitioners (65%) believing the issue has increased in the past year.
  • CAPVA is rarely confined to a single form of abuse, with most parents and caregivers experiencing multiple types. While physical abuse is often the most reported, other forms like verbal, emotional, and financial abuse are considered "lesser" and often not reported to authorities. Emotional abuse is pervasive, with threats, insults, offensive comments, and humiliation being commonly reported. Coercion tactics such as manipulation, threats, and self-harm are also common. Destruction of property, restrictions on behaviour, and financial abuse are also prevalent.
  • Mums or female carers are most at risk.
  • Behaviour peaks when a young person is in their early to mid-teens and abuse often escalates in severity over time, leading to parents and carers fearing for their safety as their children grow older.
  • Adverse childhood experiences (ACES) are influential. For example, when a child has witnessed domestic abuse it can lead to them learning such behaviour.Only 3% of professionals believed there is currently enough support for young people or their parents or carers.

The event focused on bringing partners from a wide range of sectors together to discuss how to use these findings to improve the response, including through raising awareness within the community, swift interventions, improved education, and greater training for professionals.

This new partnership will meet again in the new year to start planning how they can work collectively to drive the research recommendations forward.

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner, Emily Spurrell, said: “CAPVA is still an under-recognised hidden harm that we know is affecting families in our region.

“Our MVRP is determined to prevent serious violence. By working with LJMU, this study has focused on identifying and understanding the triggers, causes and impact of this type of family violence, so we can better equip partners with the knowledge and tools to intervene effectively to stop it from occurring and keep more families safe.”

Director of the MVRP Supt Georgie Garvey said: “The impact of CAPVA can be devastating, causing immense heartache and distress in families. “This research study shows that violence against parents and carers is very rarely a one-off and some are suffering every day.

“Commissioning this report was an important first step in increasing our understanding of this type of crime and I’m pleased we can now share its findings with partners to help ensure we can all better support young people and those affected by their abuse to prevent harm and protect families across our region.”

The MVRP commissioned LJMU to conduct this research following a stakeholder event in 2022 which highlighted a growing concern about the prevalence and severity of CAPVA.

Professor Zara Quigg, from LJMU's Public Health Institute, said: “CAPVA poses a significant challenge to children and young people, families, professionals, and communities.

“Addressing CAPVA's multifaceted challenges requires collaboration and comprehensive strategies. Raising awareness, training professionals, defining responsibilities, securing funding, enhancing data recording, and recognising the nuances of neurodiversity are vital components.

“By navigating these complexities, Merseyside can pave the way toward fostering safer, more empathetic, and supportive environments for families contending with CAPVA”.

Ellie McCoy, from the School of Nursing and Advanced Practice, and one of the study authors said: “There are high levels of underreporting of CAPVA due to shame or fear, limited awareness among parents and professionals about CAPVA, and gaps in available support services tailored to this specific issue.

“This report highlights the importance of supporting reporting of CAPVA and enhancing data collection systems to inform prevention activity.”


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