All of the accounts posted referred to physical violence, which was often described as co-occurring with verbal abuse. Thus, parents referred to being bitten, kicked, battered, thumped and punched – in the throat, head and stomach (and in one case, while 39 weeks pregnant). As well as the parent, violence was also described as being targeted on siblings and, occasionally, the other parent. Violence was also directed onto objects: furniture was smashed, ornaments were thrown and doors were kicked in. Furthermore, there were descriptions of shouting, swearing, screaming and, in two posts, the theft of money from other family members. There were also descriptions of threats of further violence towards the parent or siblings, with one daughter threatening to ‘petrol-bomb’ her parent's house.

This small, exploratory study has identified three key themes which shape their posted accounts. First, accounts focused on the emotional terrain of such experiences, which specifically drew on discourses of fear and guilt in the articulation of emotional responses to child-to-parent violence. Second, accounts focused on the psychological make-up of the child-as-‘perpetrator’, who was characterized by metaphors which highlighted the unpredictable, inevitable, pathological and uncontrollable nature of the violence and abuse. Third, accounts focused on parental responses to such violence, which featured both lone responses in managing the situation (such as the use of sanctions) and attempts to access institutional support via outside agencies (such as contacting the police or mental health services).

However, while the analytic findings from this study present a number of theoretical implications which are worthy of further study, more pressingly they suggest a number of urgent support needs which have yet to be addressed. Of course, we cannot assume that what is posted as an online account necessarily reflects what is really happening, just as we cannot assume this from more orthodox methods of data production, such as interviewing. But the existence of such posts, and the degree of violence and hopelessness which is conveyed in them, cannot easily be dismissed without further exploration. 

 

 

The terrorist in my home’: teenagers' violence towards parents – constructions of parent experiences in public online message boards.

Amanda Holt, Child & Family Social Work

Volume 16, Issue 4, pages 454–463, November 2011