Research Responding to child to parent violence

Rose White

MyPTSD Pro
This is the first time I have seen child to parent violence, or CPV, (also called Child and Adolescent to Parent Abuse, or CAPA) discussed as a category of abuse.

The research done in Europe over a number of countries suggests that 1/10 families experience this. And that it is not uncommon for the violent offender to be a victim of trauma and/or display symptoms of a mental health disorder.

This is an emerging field so there is no training yet available for social workers. Best practices seem to be focusing on strengths of parents, parenting training, and peer support. There is lots of stigma for parents in these situations as they see themselves as fully to blame which leads them to avoid seeking help as they spiral in shame and continue cycling through the abuse dynamic.
 
Children who learn to use violence as a strategy may be more likely to use violence in future relationships and there is some evidence of links between CPV and other forms of violence in the public sphere

Appetitive aggression, my old friend. I'm glad that this is becoming more mainstream, it's a part of my own history - I've never physically harmed my mother, but I've screamed, shouted, thrown things, broken things, scared her, made her feel like she had to walk on eggshells, constantly lashed out due to sensory deficits, etc. And in our case the causal link between her treatment of me and my developing this way are clear, but it's still wrong of me to lash out in these ways. FORNET and dextromethorphan have helped tremendously with this, which just leaves the process of restoration and reconciliation - a challenging maneuver that involves accountability on both of our ends.
 
restoration and reconciliation - a challenging maneuver that involves accountability on both of our ends.
Challenging is an understatement! I’m impressed by your continuing relationship with your mother. You haven’t written much about her but to hear that she is making efforts on her end in restoring and reconciling warms my heart.
 
to hear that she is making efforts on her end in restoring and reconciling warms my heart.
Indeed so! Last year she finally admitted to the things she had done which caused me harm and specifically apologized for them, without emotional flooding. Before that, she would have breakdowns and become suicidal and lament about "being a terrible mother" and I would have to comfort her instead of the other way around. So until she actually took real ownership our relationship was extremely strained.

I moved out at age 19 and stayed away for 6 years, and when I came home, I mostly stayed in my room and didn't interact with her at all except to blow up when I couldn't handle her doing normal things like the dishes, or sweeping, or eating. Since then things have dramatically improved between us. I've made an extremely concentrated effort to change my behaviors since fostering a development of real affective empathy over the past 2 years.

Living with someone who has PTSD and RAD is traumatic. Even when I had no intention of causing harm, I still did. I never called her names, insulted her or tried to wound her psychologically. Even when I was furious with her I would do my best to state my side in a logical manner (or, you know, yell it...) but I would frequently lose all capacity to interact and say things like "I don't care," "stop talking," "OK," "whatever," etc. It was not an attempt to make her feel bad, it was an attempt to make her leave me alone, because I couldn't deal with speaking to her - for no reason.

It was never over anything she had done in the moment and I don't perceive that it was a result of resentment either, but nevertheless. It cannot be denied that after this happened - and we have had many discussions about it following, once she realized that I do forgive her and that I don't consider her a terrible mother or a bad person, but my capacity to forgive and let go is predicated on her ability to engage with me rationally about it - she has made a big effort to do so (which is a big deal, because my mom is the most irrational person I know - to her, her feelings are everything, and she struggles to express or explain her reasoning - very typical ISFP, autism and expressive language deficits).

Over the last year I have only lost my temper to the point of breaking something once - and she was not present, she was asleep upstairs.
 
That’s super interesting - thanks for sharing! I was very violent as a child, things were kind of different back then. Despite all the millions of referrals to just about everywhere, no one appears to have taken the time to get to know me for more than 5 minutes & bother to ask if i was okay and why I was doing what I was doing. I don’t know if I feel sorry for what I did. Apparently I wasn’t capable of it, but I am just not sure if I simply didn’t/don’t care. I have a difficult relationship with my mother. I wasn’t wanted, we have two polar different ways of communication, and I have this weird thing that I really struggle to be in her close physical presence, even though she’s never been violent towards me.

In the end, I turned it inwards before I reached double digits.
 
I appreciate hearing the perspective of adults who experienced this as children/adolescents, so thank you @Weemie and @No More . I was a fawning, enabling teenager, but my brother was aggressive toward my mom (and me). I have two sons who were aggressive to me in ways that were much more intense than how my brother was to my mom. It has been a long process dealing with them. Basically I forced them to live with their dad even though he’s not the best influence on them because their dad refused to support them getting treatment of any kind. One of my sons is now an adult and has developed a capacity for self-reflection and logic. The other is playing a game with his life which is difficult for me to consider but I can’t live with him. He has damaged my rental property, my car, and abused my animals, possibly contributing to the death of one, though that is not proven. My daughter and dog are afraid of him. I’m not afraid of him, I have called the police on him multiple times, but without the support and finances to put him in a residential program I’ve been told by multiple people that all I can do is wait for him to get arrested so that he can get mental health support from the system. A 12-step program called Parents of Addicted Loved Ones has helped me to focus on my own well-being and allow him to blaze on his own, without allowing myself to spin in guilt and fear. It’s his life.

Which is really strange from a certain perspective to say about a teen, socially it’s wrong to say that, but I’ve been check-mated by my ex and my son and the lack of social care available for a family not on welfare but not wealthy.

Anyway, that’s my story. I do have hope that his brain will develop to where he can self-reflect and use logic to be able to see more than one inch in front of him. I pray that he will be safe enough until that happens.
 
Have you considered Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder? (I seem to recall you mentoning ADD?) Barkley has done a lot of research on it. This is just a clip but he has extensive resources online to understand and approach it.:


Dr. Paul Gilbert also says it's possible to teach empathy.

At the end of the day however you can only do your best and protect yourself. And you will know with addictions the 3 C's- you didn't cause it, can't control it and can't cure it. You can only try to respond more genuinely effectively and try to set up healing opportunities, understand where it's coming from. And capitalize on naturally occurring windows of opportunity, should they come.

We have a program here for free where the person is given responsibilty but also answering to and working under ex-inmates. A friend's son is in it.

Best wishes to you.
 
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Yes I understand. But you can perhaps apply what you know, and in a sense it teaches him in the process. It also comes from a different place than (our own) reactivity, but rather knowledge. I think it's why they say addictions are a family illness, and the most ill member gets the most attention. But working on our own part is all we can control doing. Responding differently can be a starting place though.
 
Something just came to mind because I was listening to a podcast where a researcher of the Amazon was asked if he’s ever had a fear of death. And the scientist adventurer said that any time he was close to death he felt calm and peaceful, accepting.

And what popped into my head is that the last time my son was here and he got into a rage and said he could basically pop my head off if he wanted to and told me not to touch him, I got real calm and got real close to him and put my hand on his shoulder and said, “I’m right here.” I had no fear whatsoever.

I used to. Several years ago when he would rage I would push him up against the wall and show him who had the strength. Which was an improvement from being totally collapsed and just allowing him to say and do whatever he wanted without any response from me at all.

In the months leading up to the total calm I went through a crying phase when he would rage.

But now? Calm. Not collapsed. Accepting. Get closer and calmer. If he attacks me I will deal with it. But I will not cry. I will not fight. And I will not dissociate.

He didn’t attack me. He lectured me. Loudly. And for a long time. And then he left.

I’m not proud of the relationship. I recognize how broken I was. I had no business having kids but I had no idea. I didn’t know my dad had perpetrated csa on me because the memories were confused and buried. I didn’t know my ex was manipulating and using me. I saw the world through totally different eyes and interpreted it with a different brain. Because of my conditioning. And when I knew better through therapy I did better.

My son might have a mental illness. I don’t blame his genes or claim him to be randomly neurodiverse. I, and his dad, and my parents, did not raise him well. I tried. Ex thinks he’s trying. Same with my parents (I lived with my parents while married.). They thought they were trying. My son is drawn to living with the parent who has the worst boundaries and the most manipulation. Because that’s familiar. My boundaries and consequences are interpreted by my son as micromanaging and manipulation.

He doesn’t want to live with me. And I don’t want him to live with me, unless he’s receiving treatment, which he doesn’t want and his dad won’t support.

I think I’m writing all this to work out why the concept of child to parent violence is so complicated and shame-inducing and bound to be stigmatized from a parent perspective. Because of the role that I played (unwittingly until I knew better) in forming my child’s mental state.

A good friend and T both tell me, “Son is his own person. He makes his own decisions. You can’t baby him.” T said she had a client with a 50yo son who lived with and bullied her. I heard similar stories at Parents of Addicted Loved Ones meetings.

I get the sense that it must be hard for people reading this or hearing me talk about it because there’s a sense of “just do xyz.” I get that. And part of me feels shamed about that. I have exhausted all my options. The best thing for me to do is let my son live his life with his dad. And let him know that I’m still here for him. I will always be here for him AND have boundaries and consequences.

I had to have boundaries and consequences for my parts. I do for my daughter. My adult son and I have a different kind of relationship now but I still have boundaries and consequences with him, he just doesn’t push them anymore.

I’m always working on my boundaries with my kids’ dad, but that one is still a work in progress. Reading the articles about child to parent violence actually helps me feel hopeful, in some way that is difficult for me to qualify.
 
“Son is his own person. He makes his own decisions. You can’t baby him.”

My encouragement to you would be a re-frame: not allowing your son to abuse you is not worthy of shame, nor is it a move away from protecting/caring for him. It is an act of compassion, for yourself, but also for him. Sometimes the greatest kindness we can show people is to decline to permit them the opportunity to harm us. By declining, you are reducing the risk of conflict between you both, and you are focusing on peace.

You are saying implicitly (and perhaps explicitly) that if your son ever wishes to have a relationship with you, it must be predicated on peace. You never know, one day, that might make the difference. He may see your behavior with him now as having grown and changed, and it may inspire him to do the same. My own mother's behavior toward me changed a great deal -and whether I consciously know it or not, I followed suit (and at around the same age, as well).

Ultimately it models strength and dignity, which are important ideals to pass to your children in any capacity. And this is something you can continue to demonstrate, even if you do not frequently interact with him.
 
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I get the sense that it must be hard for people reading this or hearing me talk about it because there’s a sense of “just do xyz.” I get that. And part of me feels shamed about that. I have exhausted all my options. The best thing for me to do is let my son live his life with his dad. And let him know that I’m still here for him. I will always be here for him AND have boundaries and consequences.
^^ I hope you don't feel like beating yourself up for this because although it is an expected feeling (my friend feels it too, that she is glad there are the ex-convicts to have him under their wing as he is now 18, and also relief he has moved out) . There is no shame in it and further most families have a child or grandchild struggling equally and they are struggling the same.

Oddly it may be true that the parenting difference has some role according to Barkely, but more in the way of 1 marshmallow parent, one heavy on discipline. But that is not blame and other kids choose differently even raised in the same family. My mom used to say addictions are the easiest thing to fall in to and the hardest to crawl out of. Now they know it has likely more to do with a reward center in the brain that doesn't register easily or as it should. And you are modeling your own sobriety to him.

My son might have a mental illness. I don’t blame his genes or claim him to be randomly neurodiverse. I, and his dad, and my parents, did not raise him well. I tried. Ex thinks he’s trying. Same with my parents (I lived with my parents while married.). They thought they were trying. My son is drawn to living with the parent who has the worst boundaries and the most manipulation. Because that’s familiar. My boundaries and consequences are interpreted by my son as micromanaging and manipulation.
You would expect him to want to be where he can get what he wants, and he can manipulate. Your boundaries have nothing to do with micromanaging him. They are your limits or responses, not his.

You are right. Out of love of the other I think, ~they will have a heavy burden of guilt if they wake up (short term or long) and have murdered me, or caused damage. I don't want them to live with preventable pain, even if it doesn't cause them pain for a long time. I say that with the caveat you feel that it may be possible they have or have had at one time the capability of remorse. (I have another relative who may not. )

I do not think (just for myself I mean) it is not a lack of fear of death (though that exists pre-the moment one has attempted suicide IMHO), I think it's love and courage. Though not the same situation as a child I have done the same many a time and said I love you during these times. Sometimes it's been helpful, sometimes I've been spit on and raged at. Ideally the boundary were it possible would be to leave. When I couldn't leave sometimes it's gone on for hours. Sober or not.

ADD comes often with big and sensitive hearts, and big reactions. Conversely many parents anecdotaly have said what seems to be a distinguishing factor of Bipolar Diorder is that they are afraid of their children (i.e lock up the knives).

One thing you might try in the next tirade is to name the emotion, i.e. "You are pissed/ enraged." Then let him shout why and listen. (don't say "you sound like you are (x)", say 'you are'). It helps a person recognize themselves (see themselves, a poorly developed or lacking quality with ADD, or correct you.)

I have heard it said all of us react badly to our pain points, but our pain points assume that something small is an indictator of more of the same, past. And that in the moment we have no way of seeing it means otherwise. And with ADD the terrible feelings do not feel like they will end. I mean it literally cognitively and rationally does not feel like it will be possible they will change.

Of course you know as per addiction that is what is on the mind. My dad said he could put his hand in his pocket, feel the change and convert it to what he could buy.
. My own mother's behavior toward me changed a great deal -and whether I consciously know it or not, I followed suit (and at around the same age, as well).
^^ Once during my Rage Stage my mom said, "I love you but I don't like you right now". They were wise words that stuck with me. Accurate, and understadable why not. And I didn't like myself much either.
 
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