Thursday, 16 April 2009

Why a Break4Change blog ?

Do you work with families affected by Parent Abuse? Also called Child-to-Parent violence, this issue affects about 3-4% of families ( Gallagher, 2008). A young person's behaviour may be considered as abusive if others in the family feel threatened, intimidated or controlled by it, and if they believe they must adjust their own behaviour to accommodate threats or anticipation of violence.
The abuse might be mild to severe, either physical, psychological, verbal or financial, it is deliberate and used as a form of control.
Until now, there was no provision in the UK specifically designed to address Child-to Parent abuse professionals could refer their clients to.

You will be very pleased to learn that a new intervention has now been designed and piloted in Brighton, called Break 4 Change, developed in partnership between the city's YOT, Targeted Youth Support Service ( TYSS), Rise ( an organisation working with families affected by domestic abuse), and FIP ( the Family Intervention Project), and with special support from Eddie Gallagher (an Australian psychologist and Counsellor working with CPV) and Paul Goodwin ( Brighton Community CAMHS).
The Break 4 Change programme has been specifically designed to address this significant issue that permeate the experience of many parents' life. This is a very exciting new initiative, aiming to effectively create changes in young people who are out of control, and break the isolation of affected parents, offering effective tools to reduce or stop the abuse occurring.

Following the pilot of the programme, and the first Child-to-Parent Violence conference in the UK that we organised in Brighton in April 09, I decided to create this blog to help bring together UK interested professionals and share resources and ideas, so that we can better support families affected by this issue.
Although a significant issue that permeate the experience of many parents' life, parent abuse has received limited attention over the past 20 years. Research to date has concentrated on aetiology, family dynamics, and explanatory theories. I was surprised to discover that research on the topic of parent abuse not only was limited in size, but was also conflicting and inconsistent on even the gender of perpetrators and of the victims.
Consequently, parents' experience is still misunderstood and often minimised, shrouded in a veil of shame and silence, contributing to isolation and feeling of self-blame.
There are very few descriptions or evaluation of work with young people, clinical or otherwise (Gallagher 2004, Micucci, 1995, Paterson et al, 2002, Sheehan, 1997,) and even fewer descriptions or evaluations of group interventions to address this issue, with either parents or young people. This paucity indicates the need for raising awareness of the prevalence of parent abuse and its impact, and for much more research and work on this topic.
I therefore invite professionals working with parents and young people on this issue to contribute to this blog. Parents affected by this issue are very welcome to share their experience too.

Research to date mainly focuses on describing or explaining the abuse, rather than on identifying options for interventions (Downey 1997) . I have found very few descriptions or evaluations of treatment programmes and no literature comparing effectiveness of what is being tried:
Micucci (1995) recommends four key therapeutic strategies: supporting parental authority, repairing dislocated relationships, containing conflicts, and discovering and supporting competence.
Sheehan (1997), on a base of narrative family therapy and psychodynamic theory, aims to utilise the strengths and resources that already exist within the family, and assist adolescents to become more accountable for their behaviour and for parents or caregivers to stand up to the adolescent’s abuse without feeling blamed or responsible for that behaviour.
Gallagher (2004) states, based on 30 years of practice in this field, that a fundamental goal of individual parent work is for parents to develop clear rules about their child’s behaviour and to establish logical consequences for all violent, abusive or destructive acts.
Several authors like Downey (1997), Price (1996) and Gallagher ( 2004) advocate individual therapy for the youth perpetrator of parent abuse, while parents are also supported. The goal here is to improve emotional awareness and emotional literacy, to develop more insight into the level of control and, therefore, control over abusive behaviours, to challenge maladaptive attitudes about gender roles, and to motivate the young person to stop the abuse.
Group work (separate to family work) as a treatment and support option for parents who are experiencing parent abuse, is a relatively new, positive and isolated development ( Paterson et al. 2002). I was very keen to explore this further, as I was well aware of the huge benefits for women experiencing domestic abuse from the work being done at Rise.
Whilst limitations in the current literature meant that no firm conclusion could be drawn as to which form of therapy or approach are most effective in treating parent abuse, it seemed that most successful work done had elements of psycho-education, brief solution focus therapy, the establishment of clear behaviour targets and rules, parenting training with consequences and rewards strategies for regaining control and improvement of family communication.
Brief Solution Focus therapy has impressive researched results in working with people affected by or perpetrating domestic abuse ( Lee, Sebold and Uken, 2007 in Nelson and Thomas ed. 2007). The non-confrontational, non-blaming approach has a high completion rate, and holds individuals accountable to building solutions through developing useful goals, developing alternative, new, beneficial descriptions of themselves that eliminate violence from relationships. This approach also fits with the assumptions that Gallagher ( 2008) encourages practitioners to work with: ambivalence about the behaviour, control is possible, violence is a purposeful, chosen behaviour, it has costs and benefits.
Break 4 change has therefore been designed along these lines. It consists of a programme for the parents or carers, and of a programme for their children.

How are you working with your clients on this issue?


Agnes Munday

Training and Preventative Education Officer, Rise