Parental abuse is a fairy new term. 1979 had a study on this topic and term used was Parent battery. It was still considered variant juvenile delinquency. The biggest challenge in this area is the lack of reporting by the parent, this makes accuracy a little unreliable. All the same whatever data is available is self confessed from the adolescents. 1988 has a study by Evans and Warren Sohlberg, this is available online.
The abuse of mother is 82% that is almost 5 times more than that of the father. 57% being physical, 3% of throwing things, and 22% being verbal. There were some adolescents who even confessed using weapons. Interestingly 11% of the abusers were below 11yrs.
The abuse levels were maximum in single parenting mothers. The abuse was not associated with ethnic background, socio-economic class or sexual orientation. Though gender does not play a role in the total number of perpetuators, boys were more likely to inflict physical abuse while girls were more likely to inflict emotional ones.
Like mentioned before 11% of the abusers were below 10yrs, but the peak adolescent parental abuse was between 12-17yrs.
The parental abuse is not restricted to the house, but can be in public places too, when it does happen in public it becomes a criminal act.
Teenage is a period where transition from being dependent to become independent occurs these dynamics are affected if there has been unhealthy parenting, particularly control issues. Certain extent of resistance to parental authority is normal; the abuse usually begins with verbal abuse.
If the child has had to defend itself from an aggressive abusive parent, then the child tends to get abusive. If not, the parent has to draw the line as to when the behaviour is acceptable and when it becomes abuse. Though emotional tantrums are part of growing up, parents have to decide where the boundary is and ensure that the child does not cross it. Abusive parents, dysfunctional family and other psychological problems can result in an aggressive child.
There seems to be a typical interaction sequence that ultimately results in abuse
- The adolescent makes an request
- The parent asks questions, whatever reason to clarify or needs more information.
- The adolescent responds and provides the requested information
- The parent negates the request for whatever reason.
- The adolescent tries to reason/coax the parental decision. Sometimes even threaten.
- The parents is firm on his or her decision, the adolescent may start using abusive remarks, threats, harass the parents by following the parent around. Sometimes verbal threats are followed by physical force or emotional abuse and often causing destruction of property or causing financial damage.
It is very essential to recognize this behaviour as abuse and treat it appropriately. If the parent overreacts at this point it could lead to physical abuse. If the parent exhibits tendency to abuse and negative behaviour the child also tends towards it. balancing the two dynamics is the key to healthy family dynamics in reducing potential abuse within families.
A major question that now pops would be is intervention possible. Yes, it is and possibly it is the best possible solution if it is confronted in the adolescent level. care should be taken that it should be confused with child abuse or child neglect. However if the child has mental condition which does not allow the child/teenager to understand what exactly is happening then it will not work.
Though there are courts and child protective services around the world there are no such services to protect the parents.
Next article will look at the fundamental rights of parents that contribute to their health. scheduled on Nov.9th.