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As the days grew shorter and cooler in the West of Ireland last autumn, much work continued by the NUI Galway partners, mostly in training and research.  Declan Coogan, Lecturer, MA in Social Work Programme, National University of Ireland Galway and RCPV Project Galway lead has in particular been on the road.  He delivered presentations on Non Violent Resistance (NVR) and the RCPV Project to organisations such as the National Family Support Network on 18 October and the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect on 17 September. In August the Research Assistant post for the project in Galway was filled by Eileen Lauster. She was delighted to join the project and on 18 October she gave a presentation on NVR and the RCPV project to the Local Authority Social Workers & Housing Welfare Officers from all around Ireland.  Declan and Eileen both attended a meeting with practitioners on a successful use of the NVR programme in Limerick on 4 October. NVR is a programme where parents commit to principles of non-violence and being present with their child.

The research on CPV in Ireland is also well in progress. We have gathered information from all the major policy and service organisations in Ireland. We are compiling data from the surveys with the Probation Services and have transcribed an interview with the staff of COPE Galway Waterside House Refuge Centre. We look forward to sharing the findings of all this work with all the partner countries.

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The Responding to Child to Parent Violence project team held a successful two-day conference in Smolyan, Bulgaria, home to one of the project partners, the XXI Century Rhodopa Mountain Initiative NGO. Partners from Spain, Sweden, Ireland and England all travelled to take part.

Conference participants discussed the problem of child to parent violence across partner countries, and took part in training sessions developed by  XXI Century Rhodopa Mountain Initiative and Brighton and Hove City Council  on the two intervention models that the project is evaluating:  Break4Change (Brighton and Hove City Council) and Non Violent Resistance (National University of Ireland, Galway). The conference was attended by local social services, NGOs, police and academics and participants engaged in some lively discussions. As a direct result of the conference, partners in Bulgaria are considering how they could implement their own specific intervention programme to combat this emerging social problem.

Participants reported that child to parent violence is an issue that is present but hidden and stigmatised in Bulgaria, echoing experiences in the UK, and that local services are adopting a preventative focus to tackle the problem. Where a parent reports a concern, an investigation involving the police, local municipality, general practitioners, social workers, NGO workers and a school representative is undertaken and a coordinated response is put into place.

Dr Paula Wilcox, Principal Investigator on the project, said:

“The conference was a big success and it was wonderful to see such a broad range of professionals represented. We all have a lot to learn from each other and our Bulgarian colleagues contributed a great deal to exciting discussions and plans for the future.“

The Responding to Child to Parent Violence project is an EU Daphne III funded action research project led by the University of Brighton’s School of Applied Social Science.

Child to parent violence is defined as “any act of a child that is intended to cause physical psychological financial damage to gain power and control over a parent and/or carer” (Cottrell, 2001). This multi-agency research project aims to examine how a range of organisations in different countries across Europe are responding to it.

 

One of the things we have been grappling with since the start of the EU Daphne RCPV project last February is the thorny issue of defining and understanding child to parent violence and abuse (CPV) and why it remains such a hidden problem.  One thing we know for sure from our work with practitioners is that parents never use this term if and when they disclose it happening – they talk about having a family problem or they will say they can’t control their child. Professionals working with young people and families in a range of different settings, schools, social care, health, youth justice etc. tell us that they too struggle to understand and respond to this emerging serious social problem. 

Looking to the wider field of family violence we need to acknowledge that this is a relatively new area of research despite its extensive history and prevalence. Family violence largely happens behind closed doors and the family is characterised by a ‘deep-seated sense of privacy in the home, and intimate emotional attachments between children and parents’ (Jackson 2003:321). As with domestic violence, when violence and abuse occurs from a child to a parent this sharply disrupts and overturns our view of the family as a place of safety. And as Cohen (2001) has argued one dominant public response to the knowledge of violence and suffering is to deny that this form of violence is happening.  As a result this particular form of family violence remains hidden and poorly understood with very few services which specifically address CPV.

The RCPV Violence project has been working on raising awareness of this social problem over the last year and a key message for both parents and young people is that change is possible.  Once you recognise CPV is happening in your family then please seek help as quickly as you can but remember it is never too late to seek help and support. 

Cohen, S. 2001 States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering, Cambridge, Policy Press.

Jackson, D. 2003 Broadening Constructions of Family Violence: Mothers’ Perspective of Agression from their Children. Child and Family Social Work. 8: 321-329.