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Child-to-parent violence (CPV), also recognized as abuse of parents by their children, constitutes a manifestation of domestic violence characterized by the infliction of maltreatment upon parents. This mistreatment commonly manifests in verbal or physical forms.

The repercussions of enduring abuse from one's offspring can be substantial, exerting influence on the physical and mental well-being of parents, both in the immediate and prolonged periods.

CPV can manifest in diverse forms, encompassing physical, verbal, psychological, emotional, and financial dimensions.[1]: 3–6 

The occurrence of parental abuse by adolescents spans a variable age range, with adolescents defined as individuals aged between 12 and 24 years.

Multiple causes of abusive behavior

Many people consider parental abuse to be the result of certain parenting practices, neglect, or the child suffering abuse themselves, but other adolescent abusers have had "normal" upbringings and have not suffered from such situations. Children may be subjected to violence on TV, in movies and in music, and that violence may come to be considered "normal".[2] The breakdown of the family unit, poor or nonexistent relationships with an absent parent, as well as debt, unemployment, and parental drug/alcohol abuse may all be contributing factors to abuse. Some other reasons for CPV according to several experts include:[1][3]


Parental abuse is a relatively new term. In 1979, Harbin and Madden[4] released a study using the term "parent battery" but juvenile delinquency, which is a major factor, has been studied since the late 19th century.[5] Even though some studies have been done in the United States, Australia, Canada, and other countries, the lack of reporting of adolescent abuse towards parents makes it difficult to accurately determine the extent of it. Many studies have to rely on self-reporting by adolescents.[6][7] In 2004, Robinson,[5] of Brigham Young University, published: Parent Abuse on the Rise: A Historical Review in the American Association of Behavioral Social Science Online Journal, reporting the results of the 1988 study performed by Evans and Warren-Sohlberg.[8] The results reported that 57% of parental abuse was physical; using a weapon was at 17%; throwing items was at 5% and verbal abuse was at 22%. With 82% of the abuse being against mothers (five times greater than against fathers), and 11% of the abusers were under the age of 10 years. The highest rate of abuse happens within families with a single mother. Mothers are usually the primary caregivers; they spend more time with their children than fathers and have closer emotional connections to them. It can also be due to the size and strength of the abuser. Parental abuse can occur in any family and it is not necessarily associated with ethnic background, socio-economic class, or sexual orientation.

Numerous studies concluded that gender does not play a role in the total number of perpetrators; however, males are more likely to inflict physical abuse and females are more likely to inflict emotional abuse.[1][7][9] Studies from the United States estimate that violence among adolescents peaks at 15–17 years old.[8][10][11] However, a Canadian study done by Barbara Cottrell in 2001 suggests the ages are 12–14 years old.[1]

Parental abuse does not happen just inside the home but can in public places, further adding to the humiliation of the parents. Abuse is not only a domestic affair but can be criminal as well. Most teenagers experience a transition in which they try to go from being dependent to independent, but there are some dynamics of parental control that may alter it. There will always be times of resistance toward parental authority. According to the Canadian National Clearinghouse on Family Violence, the abuse generally begins with verbal abuse, but even then, some females can be very physically abusive towards a child who is smaller and more vulnerable than they are, and to cover their abuse, they often lie to the other parent about actual events that led to "severe punishment." The child, adolescent or parent may show no remorse or guilt and feel justified in the behavior, but many times when the child is the one who is being abused, they are very remorseful for being forced to defend themselves, especially when they are not the aggressor.[5] Parents can examine the behavior of their children to determine whether or not it is abusive. Some teenagers can become aggressive as a result of parental abuse, dysfunction, or psychological problems, while some children may have trouble dealing with their emotions. However, children who are abused are not always afforded protection from their abusive parents.[1]

Typical model of adolescent-parent abuse interaction

According to Nancy Eckstein, the typical interaction leading to parental abuse often seems to occur in the following sequence:[12]

  1. The adolescent makes a request.
  2. The parent asks for clarifying information.
  3. The adolescent responds courteously and provides the requested information.
  4. The parent acknowledges the teen's point of view but decides to say "no" based on the information provided, while possibly continuing the conversation regarding a possible "next time".
  5. The adolescent tries to change the mind of the parent by asking the parent to explain the decision, sometimes using the information to continue to challenge the parent until certain that the answer would not change.
  6. If the parent holds firm to their decision, the teen may start using abusive remarks and threats, harass the parent by following the parent around, and finally respond with verbal threats, physical force, emotional abuse, and often destruction of property or financial damage.

Yet, the escalation of violence is an interactive process. When parents or others intervene emotionally or physically in a violent manner, they can cause the adolescent's aggression to escalate to a higher level. The more tendency towards abuse and negative behaviors that the parent exemplifies, the more reactive the child will also be. As a result, balancing these two dynamics reduces potential abuse within families, whether it be parental abuse or child abuse.


Non-violent resistance (NVR) is an approach designed to overcome a child’s aggressive, controlling, and self-destructive behaviors.[13][14] In NVR, parents replace talking with action, not engaging with aggressive or harmful behaviors.[15] With the support of therapists and other counselors, it is possible to identify mental health and other behavioral concerns throughout this process. It has four areas where parents are supported by therapists or other counselors:[15]

  1. De-escalation
  2. Breaking taboos
  3. Taking non-violent actions
  4. Reconciliation gestures

While intervention is an option, it may not always work. There are times when the child has a mental illness that does not allow them, adolescent or teenager, to understand what exactly is happening. Therefore, they act out their emotions the only way they know. This can present itself as violence, emotional abuse, destructive behavior, such as destroying personal property or self-harm. The United States currently protects abused children using Courts, Child Protective Services and other agencies. The US also has Adult Protective Services which is provided to abused, neglected, or exploited older adults and adults with significant disabilities. There are no agencies or programs that protect parents from abusive children, adolescents or teenagers other than giving up their parental rights to the state they live in.[16]

Lastly, the quality of family relationships directly influences child-to-parent violence, with power-assertive discipline playing a mediating role in this connection. It appears that the emotional aspect and overall quality of family relationships are pivotal factors in preventing violent behaviors.[17]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Cottrell, Barbara (2001). Parent Abuse: The Abuse of Parents by Their Teenage Children (PDF). Health Canada. ISBN 0-662-29529-3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-02-27.
  2. ^ Osofsky, Joy D. (1999). "The Impact of Violence on Children". The Future of Children. 9 (3): 33–49. doi:10.2307/1602780. ISSN 1054-8289. JSTOR 1602780. PMID 10777999.
  3. ^ Bobic, N. (2004). "Adolescent Violence Towards Parents" (PDF). Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 March 2012.
  4. ^ Harbin, H.T.; Madden, D.J. (1979). "Battered Parents: A New Syndrome". American Journal of Psychiatry. 136 (10): 1288–1291. doi:10.1176/ajp.136.10.1288. PMID 484724.
  5. ^ a b c Robinson, P.W.; Davidson, L.J.; Drebot, M.E. (2004). "Parent abuse on the rise: A historical review" (PDF). American Association of Behavioral Social Science: 58–67. Retrieved 2 June 2012.[dead link]
  6. ^ Paterson, R.; Luntz, H.; Perlesz, A.; Cotton, S. (2002). "Adolescent Violence Towards Parents: Maintaining Family Connections When The Going Gets Tough" (PDF). Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy. 23 (2): 90–100. doi:10.1002/j.1467-8438.2002.tb00493.x. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 April 2012. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
  7. ^ a b Agnew, R.; Huguley, S. (1989). "Adolescent violence towards parents". Journal of Marriage and Family. 51 (3): 699–771. doi:10.2307/352169. JSTOR 352169.
  8. ^ a b Evans, D.; Warren-Sohlberg, L. (1989). "A pattern analysis of adolescent abusive behaviour towards parents". Journal of Adolescent Research. 3 (2): 210–216. doi:10.1177/074355488832007. S2CID 145634430.
  9. ^ "World report on violence and health" (PDF). Summary. World Health Organization (2002). Archived (PDF) from the original on 5 March 2019. Retrieved 13 Jun 2012.
  10. ^ Straus, M., Gelles, R., & Steinmetz S. (1988). Behind closed doors: violence in the American family. New York: Anchor Books.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)[page needed]
  11. ^ Wilson, J. (1996). "Physical abuse of parents by adolescent children". In Busby, D.M. (ed.). The impact of violence on the family: treatment approaches for therapists and other professionals. Massachusetts: Allyn & Bacon. pp. 101–103.
  12. ^ Eckstein, Nancy (2011). "Adolescent-to-Parent Abuse: Exploring the Communicative Patterns Leading to Verbal, Physical, and Emotional Abuse". In Spitzberg, B.H.; Cupach, W.R. (eds.). The Dark Side of Interpersonal Communication (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge. pp. 363–385. ISBN 978-0-8058-4450-4.
  13. ^ Toole-Anstey, Chye; Keevers, Lynne; Townsend, Michelle L (2023). "A Systematic Review of Child to Parent Violence Interventions". Trauma, Violence, & Abuse. 24 (2): 1157–1171. doi:10.1177/15248380211053618. ISSN 1524-8380. PMID 34866496. S2CID 244944508.
  14. ^ Weinblatt, Uri; Omer, Haim (2008). "Nonviolent Resistance: A Treatment for Parents of Children with Acute Behavior Problems". Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. 34 (1): 75–92. doi:10.1111/j.1752-0606.2008.00054.x. ISSN 0194-472X. PMID 18199182.
  15. ^ a b "Information on NVR for Parents". PartnershipProjects UK. Retrieved 2023-10-26.
  16. ^ van Gink, Kirsten; van Domburgh, Lieke; Jansen, Lucres; Goddard, Nick; Ottenbros, Ron; van Der Stegen, Ber; Popma, Arne; Vermeiren, Robert (2020-07-02). "The Development and Implementation of Non-Violent Resistance in Child and Adolescent Residential Settings". Residential Treatment for Children & Youth. 37 (3): 176–198. doi:10.1080/0886571X.2019.1590172. hdl:1887/3182549. ISSN 0886-571X.
  17. ^ Ibabe, I.; Bentler, P. M. (2016-02-01). "The Contribution of Family Relationships to Child-to-Parent Violence". Journal of Family Violence. 31 (2): 259–269. doi:10.1007/s10896-015-9764-0. ISSN 1573-2851. S2CID 27914992.

Further reading