Children’s aggression major worry for parents

A hotline for distressed parents has revealed that the most frequent reason for people contacting its services is anger and aggression from their children.

The figures from Parentline, based on approximately 3,000 calls dealt with during the course of the year, found that anger/aggression towards parents was by far the most common reason for making a call, ahead of teenage issues, stress and child abusing parents.

Women were responsible for 83% of the calls received while in 44% of cases, the children referenced in the calls were aged 12 to 18 years old.

Rita O’Reilly, the CEO of Parentline, said in some cases anger or aggression shown by children towards their parents escalated into physical violence.

She said some of the reasons given for this included children not having learned to control or manage their feelings, especially anger, or children not having learned how to deal with stress, to solve problems or cooperate.

She also said other reasons given included people not valuing other people or property, some children seeing a parent as weak or powerless, and in some cases the use of alcohol or drugs or mental health issues.

“A child or adolescent’s behaviour is (deemed) violent or a form of abuse if parents feel controlled, intimidated or threatened by it,” Ms O’Reilly said.

“Child to parent violence is an abuse of power through which the child or adolescent attempts to coerce, control or dominate other family members.”

Two years ago Parentline introduced the Non-Violent Resistance programme in response to an increase in the number of calls relating to “child to parent violence” and “anger and aggression”.

Ms O’Reilly said Non-Violent Resistance (NVR) targets aggressive, violent, controlling and risk-taking behaviour in young people.

It’s based on strategies used by Ghandi and Martin Luther King to oppose oppression in a firm but non-violent and assertive way and aims to develop strategies and practices to strengthen family relationships.

“Parentline is unique in that we can offer the programme over the phone — which opens it up to everyone — no need to travel,” she said.

“Also, typically we have little or no waiting list. The programme typically lasts about six weeks for about an hour per week. Parentline is there between times to support the parent if they need it.”

The issue of violent behaviour towards parents was also referenced in an article in The Irish Social Worker, written by Dr Declan Coogan, a lecturer in Social Work at NUI Galway who said child to parent violence and abuse (CPVA) was a relatively recently identified form of violence within the family in Ireland and was of growing concern.

The research found that while Non-Violent Resistance is not the only response to the problems of child to parent violence, it was an intervention that responded to the immediate safety and protection needs of parents and other family members.

  • The Parentline phone number is 1890 927277 or 01 8733500 and the lines are open Monday to Thursday from 10am–9pm and Friday from 10am–4pm. The service also calls back where messages are left.


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