Complex Safeguarding Wales

A CASCADE project

Hidden Harms: Understanding Child and Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse

Guest post by Bethan Pell


Recent media headlines have drawn attention to child to parent violence yet there is a lack of understanding as to how it should be defined, what it includes, and what children and parents need to address this issue. My PhD aims to address this research gap.

What do we mean by child and adolescent to parent violence?

Various terms have been used to describe and represent child to parent violence. The term ‘child and adolescent to parent violence and abuse’ (CAPVA)  is becoming more commonly used, due to its inclusion in the Domestic Violence and Abuse (DVA) Act (1). However, terms of ‘violence’ and ‘abuse’ are contested, as they can misrepresent parent experiences. They can also serve to stigmatise families experiencing this form of family harm.


While the term CAPVA is commonly used, there is critical debate surrounding its definition. Despite some parallels with domestic violence and abuse, its conflation is contested (2), as it does not recognise the distinct complexities of CAPVA (3). In practice, CAPVA is a highly complex issue (4) that can occur regardless of socio-economic, ethnic, cultural and religious group and towards any form of caregiver (5). This complexity includes overlooking children under 16 (6), parental duty of care (7) and the impact of criminal justice responses (3). There are also issues surrounding ‘choice’ and ‘intent’ (8), particularly for adoption, fostering, special guardianship, special educational needs communities (9) and neurodivergent CYP (10,11). This lack of consensus on terminology and definition hinders our ability to understand the issue, making it more difficult for professionals to know how to respond appropriately and effectively (12).


Thus, the conceptual and theoretical framework in which we can understand CAPVA needs to be further developed (6). My PhD research will build on existing CAPVA research, to further our conceptual and theoretical understandings of CAPVA via more in-depth research in the context of Wales.


What are the impacts of CAPVA?

CAPVA is associated with negative physical, psychological, emotional, financial and legal consequences for both parents and children (12).

Parents may experience tremendous feelings of shame and guilt, which result in increasing levels of isolation and barriers to seeking support (4). Feelings of shame are also exacerbated by experiences of victim blaming, due to a distinct lack of understanding from professionals. This leads to misunderstandings about where service response should sit and results in fragmented support provision (13).

There are also significant impacts on the wider family dynamic, with negative consequences for siblings (14) due to witnessing violence and abuse within the household (15). These impacts are akin to the detrimental effects on children witnessing intimate partner DVA. Additionally, because parents are attempting to manage the abuse, siblings may receive less attention than their abusive counterpart (16).

The impact on children (> age 18) involved in CAPVA is less well known. Up until recently, research had overlooked children’s experiences, although emerging research has provided some important insights. For example, Baker (17) explored adolescent experiences in youth justice and further education contexts and highlighted physical impacts, damage to familial relationships, emotional and mental health implications and legal consequences. However, research into children’s experiences is still limited and further research is needed to build on this existing research and thus our understanding, which my PhD aims to address.

So, how will I undertake this research?

The first phase of my PhD will involve reviewing the literature via a ‘scoping review’ to explore how different stakeholders understand CAPVA (and therefore conceptualise CAPVA). I am currently consulting with stakeholders to identify and categorise these different groups of stakeholders, which will include professionals, parents and children. In collaboration with stakeholders, I will explore how applicable these findings are to the Welsh context and then highlight the gaps and focus for my data collection. For my data collection, I hope to harness participatory approaches, to help engender person-centred research with families and explore their lived experience.


I am really excited to undertake my research journey on such an important and significant social issue. By building on existing research to develop a conceptual and theoretical understanding of CAPVA, I hope to provide valuable findings which will help parents, children and professionals.


If you would like any further information on my research, please do not hesitate to contact me: Bethan Pell,




  1. Domestic Abuse Act (2021). [Accessed May 2023].
  2. Holt A, Lewis S. Constituting child-to-parent violence: Lessons from England and Wales. The British Journal of Criminology. 2021;Volume 61, Issue 3, May 2021, Pages 792–811,.
  3. Condry R, Miles C. Adolescent to parent violence: Framing and mapping a hidden problem. Criminology & Criminal Justice. 2014;14(3):257-75.
  4. Holt A. Child to Parent Abuse: Academic Insights 2022/08. 2022.
  5. Brennan et al. Comprehensive needs assessment of Child/Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse in London. 2022.
  6. Holt A. Adolescent-to-parent abuse. Current understandings in research, policy and practice. 1 ed: Bristol University Press; 2013.
  7. Simmons ML, McEwan TE, Purcell R. “But All Kids Yell at Their Parents, Don’t They?”: Social Norms About Child-to-Parent Abuse in Australia. Journal of Family Issues. 2019;40(11):1486-508.
  8. Harries T, Curtis A, Skvarc D, Walker A, Mayshak R. The Child-to-Parent Violence Functions Scale (CPV-F): Development and Validation. Journal of Family Violence. 2022.
  9. Coates A. Is the current definition of child on parent violence appropriate? [Accessed May 2023].
  10. Iwi, K. 2018. What do we mean by ‘Intent’, in the context of Child to Parent Violence? Retrieved from Holes in the Wall: [Accessed May 2023].
  11. Rutter N. It’s like living in a house with constant tremors, and every so often, there’s an earthquake. A Glaserian Grounded Theory study into harm to parents, caused by the explosive and controlling impulses of their pre-adolescent children. Durham Thesis: Durham University; 2022.
  12. Baker V. Bonnick, H. Understanding CAPVA: A rapid literature review on child and adolescent to parent violence and abuse for the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s Office,. 2021.
  13. Clarke K, Holt A, Norris C, Nel PW. Adolescent-to-parent violence and abuse: Parents’ management of tension and ambiguity—an interpretative phenomenological analysis. Child & Family Social Work. 2017;22(4):1423-30.
  14. Eckstein NJ. Emergent Issues in Families Experiencing Adolescent-to-Parent Abuse. Western Journal of Communication. 2004;68(4):365-88.
  15. Howard, J. and Rottem, N. 2008. It all starts at home: male adolescent violence to mothers: a research report. (Inner South Community Health Service).
  16. ‘Adolescent parental abuse: The abuse of parents by their adolescents’, Paper presented at Parenting Imperatives 11:2nd National Parenting Conference, Adelaide, 25-27 May 2006
  17. Baker V. Exploring adolescent violence and abuse towards parents: the experiences and perceptions of young people: Unviersity of Lancashire 2021.



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