In a new study, Oxford University researchers have compiled the first official data on the problem of adolescent-to-parent violence in the UK.
Data collected from the Metropolitan police showed that over a 12 month period between 2009-10 there were 1,892 reported cases of 13 to 19 year olds committing violence against their own parents in Greater London alone.
The study concludes with the need for greater public awareness of the problem and a coordinated response to it.
Lead researcher Dr Rachel Condry commented: “Until now the problem has gone largely unrecognised, which means that parents can find it very difficult to get help.
“The reluctance which parents face in reporting violent children to the Police means that such violence is likely to occur more frequently than reported cases would suggest.”
She continued: “Currently, in its official definition of domestic abuse, the Home Office still leaves out children who are under the age of 16.
“On top of this, police services do not currently have a system of flagging domestic violence carried out by children against their parents – it took a lot of painstaking research to get our figures.”
In the London study, 87 per cent of the suspects were male and 77 per cent of victims were women. Condry noted that “it fits in with what we know about gender imbalance”.
However, she also stressed that women might be more likely to report abuse from a child than a man: “We don’t know what the reporting dynamics are like.”
In an article in The Guardian about the issue, Alison Saunders, Britain’s incoming director of public prosecutions, said: “There is a lack of respect and a lack of regard for authority. When I was growing up the thought of striking a parent was beyond the pale.”
The researchers found that this type of violence affected all levels of society, with victims coming from families on both a low income and a high income.
Families described a range of reasons for this violent behaviour, including substance abuse, mental health problems, learning difficulties or a family history of domestic violence or self-harm.
Hoping to avoid simplistic approaches to her report, Condry added: “It’s very important that we appreciate there is not one explanation for this sort of domestic violence.”
“Adolescent-to-parent violence is a really complex problem, which has many causes and pathways from lots of different issues. The sooner we recognise this the better.”