Violence against their parents by young people in the UK increased significantly during the lockdown, a study published by the University of Manchester has found.
Seventy percent of households where this problem already exists saw a significant increase in the number of incidents, with a major cause seemingly being the collapse of the support network around these families at a time of increased pressure.
Survey of 100 families and 50 social workers
The study, published on Wednesday, was conducted by Dr Caroline Miles, a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at The University of Manchester and Oxford Professor of Criminology Rachel Condry. They surveyed more than 100 parents and nearly 50 social workers.
Apart from the 70% figure from families, more than two-thirds of social workers also reported that they were aware of more episodes of violence against parents.
Even more worryingly, 60% these episodes were accompanied by higher levels of violence than in the past.
‘Pressure cooker in an already volatile home
Parents questioned by the researchers said the UK’s lockdown pressures had made the problem worse. One said being confined at home with a troubled young person had created a ‘cabin fever effect’, while another parent described it as creating a ‘pressure cooker’ environment in an already volatile household.
In addition, there were changes in structure and routine, resulting from the closure of schools and colleges. The need to study remotely for the first time was an additional stress for many children and teens.
Meanwhile, there were few routes of escape, with no informal support from family and friends, plus the retraction of social services.
Everything is amplified and there’s no escape
“Everything is amplified; there’s no escape,” one parent said. And it’s not just the person being hurt who’s affected, it’s everyone that sees and hears it. The other children are traumatised by seeing us hurt.”
Another parent stated: “I wouldn’t want to call the police as the danger is far greater from the virus…he would be vulnerable in police cell…Before it was hard enough to call the police thinking of the usual consequences, but you could be potentially sentencing your child to death by reporting violence.”
This is a hidden form of family violence
Said Professor Condry: “Child- and adolescent-to-parent violence has tended to be a ‘hidden’ form of family violence, both by families who experience stigma and shame for the actions of their child – and because of a lack of recognition in government policy and service planning.
“It is often the ‘poor relation’ in family violence. However, a child using violence in the family presents an opportunity – an opportunity to intervene and an opportunity to prevent the child from becoming an adult perpetrator [of family violence].”