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APVA: What to do when young people lash out

Prevalance of Adolescent to Parent Violence and Agression (or APVA) has been rising dramatically in recent years.

In all families, occasional conflicts are inevitable. Parents and children will never see eye to eye 100% of the time, and siblings will naturally squabble between themselves from time to time.

However, in some cases, such conflicts become abusive. 

Although many people thinking about violence within families automatically assume that the perpetrator is always the adult, in fact, child to parent violence is a surprisingly common issue.

In fact, The BBC found the amount of APVA reported to the police nearly doubled between 2015 and 2018.

Cases of APVA rose from around 7000 in 2015 to over 14000 in 2018

Although mothers have the greatest likelihood of being the target of violence from their children, any family member may be at risk. 

Adolescent to parent violence and aggression comes in many different forms and can be found across all social classes, communities, geographical areas, and cultural backgrounds. 

Nevertheless, adult victims often feel shame and embarrassment, as well as fear about what may happen to their child if they report the abuse.

Here, we take a look at the support that is available for parents and carers who are experiencing this all-too-common problem. 

What Is APVA?

APVA is an abbreviation for Adolescent To Parent Violence And Aggression. This term is used to describe situations in which a teenager uses manipulation, force, or threats to gain power over their parent or carer. 

Adolescents may use a range of different behaviours to threaten, coerce, or dominate their family members which may or may not include physical violence. 

What Types Of Behaviour Are Classed As APVA?

There are many different kinds of behaviour that may be classed as APVA yet all are considered to be abuse. The violence may be physical, but it may also be psychological, verbal, or even financial. 

Adolescent and teenage violence is similar in many ways to domestic violence between adults, however, it is far less frequently reported. 

Usually, APVA involves specific patterns of behaviour. This may encompass humiliating threats and language, damaging property, stealing from family, heightened sexualised behaviour, and belittling. 

Often, coercive control is seen in APVA cases. In some cases, adolescents may instead display repeated episodes of physical violence with less controlling behaviour. 

Some examples of APVA-classified behaviours include: 

  1. Physical abuse: Pushing, punching, hitting, slapping, throwing objects, kicking, damaging property, or harming pets. 
  2. Verbal abuse: Shouting, yelling, challenging, arguing, belittling, criticising, swearing, or name-calling. 
  3. Emotional and psychological abuse: Intimidation, causing fear, playing mind games maliciously, making unrealistic demands, lying, withholding affection, making threats to run away, injure family members, hurt themselves, or kill themselves, leaving home without saying where they’re going, relentlessly following parents around their home, or sending offensive messages. 
  4. Financial abuse: Stealing belongings or money, demanding items that parents can’t afford, running up debts, or destroying property. 

Why Does APVA Happen? 

There is no single reason why APVA happens. In fact, there may be a wide variety of reasons why adolescents display violent and aggressive behaviour towards their parents or carers. Some common factors that are often linked with APVA include: 

  • Peer influences
  • Substance abuse
  • Learning difficulties
  • Mental health issues 
  • Family history of self-harm
  • Inflated sense of self-entitlement
  • Family history of domestic violence 
  • A history of witnessing abusive behaviour 
  • Difficult temperament with a tendency to anger easily 

In some cases, there may be no obvious reasons for a teenager’s aggression and violent behaviour.

Some parents are unable to understand why one child displays such aggressive tendencies when their siblings who they also raised display no such behaviours.

Nevertheless, the reasons for APVA are typically multi-causal and are built up over many months, weeks, or years.

Although there can be no excuses for APVA, understanding the issues that may affect your adolescent may enable you to find a strong and firm, yet supportive response. 

Top Tips For Dealing With APVA

There are several things that you can implement to help you deal with aggression and violence from your teenager. These include: 

Considering your parenting style

Sometimes, your parenting style may be inadvertently supporting your teenager’s abuse. You may give your teenager too much freedom, be afraid of conflict, or try to give your adolescent everything to compensate for other family problems. 

Acknowledging the problem

It can be difficult to acknowledge what’s happening when you have a violent teenager at home. Many parents hide their adolescent’s behaviour from others as they feel embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty.

Talking about the abuse with a trusted family member, counsellor, or friend is the best place to begin to get support and help. 

Introducing consequences

Consequences are one way in which adults can regain control, power, and confidence in their parent/child relationship. The consequences may relate to the teenager’s unacceptable behaviour. They must also be respectful, proportionate and reasonable.

These consequences will ideally improve the adolescent’s behaviour and enable them to take responsibility for the things they do and say. 

Maintaining consistency

It’s important to give teenagers choices rather than making demands.

Powerful “I” statements are important for success when it comes to setting consequences.

But it’s also important to be consistent when applying those consequences. It can be difficult to stick to what you’ve put in place when you feel threatened, angry, or upset but it’s important to make an effort in this regard. 

Choose your battles wisely

Don’t worry too much about ignoring any behaviours that you’re able to live with for now. It’s best to focus only on a couple of areas to resolve first so you can have a few smaller successes. 

Focus on your wellbeing and self-care

It’s important to remember that you deserve respect as a parent or carer and you shouldn’t be afraid to put your own needs first. Try learning some relaxation and meditation techniques to help you remain calm.

Reflect on your own responses

Remember that sometimes you may not be responding in the best way to your teenager’s behaviour. Consider the triggers that cause you to have a negative reaction and then think about how you could change the way you respond to those triggers.

Develop a family safety plan

It’s important to be able to spot when your adolescent’s behaviour has become unsafe not only for you and your family members, but also for themselves. Draw up a safety plan that you can implement if you have to leave your home in a hurry. You must be prepared, so think ahead about where you’ll go, what you’ll do, and who could help you in an emergency. 

Contact some support services

There are helpful support services available that can give you advice and information. Don’t be afraid to get in touch with them to get the help that you need. 

How Can Criminalisation Of Teenagers Be Avoided? 

Most parents and carers don’t want to criminalise their child, and this is one reason why so many victims of APVA don’t contact the police. However, if you believe that you or your family members are facing significant risk, calling the policy may be the only option. 

Under UK law, the age of criminal responsibility is 10 years old, so it’s natural for parents to hesitate to report violent and aggressive behaviour from their teenager to the authorities.

It’s important to note, though, that calling the police won’t always result in your adolescent being convicted, in fact, it could help to calm down the situation. The police can offer advice and diffuse aggressive situations whenever appropriate. 

Relationship Support & Conflict Solution Programmes

Another option that is a good choice for parents and carers who are dealing with adolescence to parent violence and aggression is to get in touch with Parent999. This service is designed to help families to avoid criminalisation of their teenage children. 

Parent999’s family relationship support and conflict resolution programmes have been designed by former Police Sergeant Steve Kenny.

Steve understands the problems that arise for carers, parents, and teenagers, whatever their backgrounds. Steve has extensive experience in supporting carers and parents who are struggling with teenagers who display anti-social behaviours. 

Thanks to his experience in the field, Steve understands that many carers and parents are reluctant to speak up when they deal with aggressive and violent behaviour from their teenagers.

He knows that shame and embarrassment, paired with fears about getting their child into trouble with the police, or even worries about other agencies splitting the family up, often deter adult victims from coming forward to get the help they need. 

That’s why he set up Parent999 – a confidential service supplied by professionals who are dedicated to offering the right support for parents and carers without criminalising adolescents.

Parent999’s interventions are personalised programmes that target both adults and young people alike with direct support, advice, and intervention strategies. 

By teaching leadership, confidence, resilience, motivation, confidence, communication skills, self-worth, and the criminal justice system, Parent999’s programmes help to point parents and carers in the right direction to handle their adolescent’s struggles and issues in a more productive and supportive way through a fast, effective, discreet and confidential service that has no waiting time. 

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