Who is an Abuser of Parents?
Both boys and girls are capable of abusing their parents. Although some research findings suggest that adolescent boys are more likely to be physically abusive than girls, aggressive behaviours in girls are increasing. Generally, the older, bigger, and stronger the teenager, the more at risk the parents are of being abused. Abuse typically appears at puberty. “Tantrums”, which may be used by younger children as a form of communication, may be an early-warning sign of abusive behaviour.
Teenagers who abuse their parents may also abuse their siblings and/or family pets.
When children are disciplined with severe corporal punishment or verbal abuse, or when they are physically or sexually abused, or when they witness such behaviour in their home, it is not surprising that they behave violently toward others.
Characteristic Behaviours of Children who experience Family Violence
There are some behaviour(s) that are commonly found in children who are reared in families with violent interaction patterns. They include:
- Role reversal, often an older child is forced to accept responsibilities for care of younger siblings and of the household due to the parents’ inability to fulfill these functions. This child may never have had the opportunity to participate in normal childhood activities.
- Aggressive behaviour, some of these children may act in an aggressive manner at home and in school, toward other siblings, children, animals, and adults. This behaviour may also include destruction of property and theft.
- Violence toward parents, when these children become adolescents or adults, they may turn on their parents.
- Running away, these children may run away, perceiving this as their only alternative for escaping an unbearable home situation.
- Truancy, these children often fail to attend school. They may believe that if they stay home their presence will keep the fighting under control, or that peers will recognize their physical and emotional deprivation and sexual abuse.
- Shy, withdrawn behaviour, these children may not interact with others. As this behaviour seldom attracts attention, these children may not be identified as trouble.
Some stress factors seem to precipitate abusive episodes more frequently than others:
- A child having problems at school.
- A child’s bad behaviour in public.
- Being abandoned by a lover or spouse.
- The failure of something important to the daily routine (car, washing machine, etc.).
- Financial problems.
- A move or transfer to a new location.
- Problems with toilet training or bed wetting.
- An approaching visit from parents or in-laws.
- A fight with a loved one.
- The death of a loved one.
- An illness of parent or child.
- Lack of or low self-esteem.
- The belief that the child is an extension of self.
- Unreasonable high expectations of self.
- The need to control.
- The desire for revenge.
- Lack of a healthy relationship.
Behaviour Indicators of abusive children:
- Overly compliant, overly adaptive, passive, undemanding, avoidance of conflict, clingy, excessive self-control
- Extended aggression, demanding, rageful, biting, destroys property, temper tantrums, short attention span, lying
- Socially withdrawn, timid, depressed, social wariness, inhibited, vacant stares, lack of curiosity, excessive fantasies, poor peer relationships, fear of a particular person, excessive fears, attempted suicide, excessive fear of punishment, feels deserving of punishment
- Developmental arrest, delays in physical, cognitive, social or emotional development, speech disorders, infantile behaviour.
- Matures earlier than usual
- Delinquent behaviour, runaway, stealing, use of alcohol or drugs