What is Child to Parent Violence or Aggression?

Raising any child is a challenging task, especially during the teen years. As part of normal development, teenagers often will act in ways that shock or surprise their parents–everything from dying their hair purple to breaking curfew to hanging out with friends parents don’t like. The teen years often include behaviors such as experimenting with drugs and/or alcohol, breaking rules like curfews or even the law, and challenging authority. While it may not be an easy time, either for the parent or the child, challenging authority, experimenting and testing the boundaries all are normal teen behaviors, as the teen, at this stage of development, is trying to separate emotionally from the parent.

But what happens when a child’s action goes beyond the typical behavior and becomes abusive or violent toward a parent? Child to parent violence is a growing problem in families across the country.

Stories from parents who are willing to speak about their abuse reveal the pain of victims who, by law, must continue to care for the abuser, their child.

A pattern of abusive and violent behaviors often is met with disbelief on the part of the parent/victim. Understandably so, parents may be exhausted, carry deep grief, and feel shock and frustration. They also may feel isolated in shame and blame with nowhere to turn for understanding or help. Out of desperation, many parents reach out to law enforcement for help, resulting in the child being arrested and charged with a crime, often domestic violence or battery.

While child to parent violence is a form of domestic violence that is defined as aggravated battery physical and non-physical abuse, exploitation of a parent’s assets and emotional abuse toward a parent, it is not like other forms of domestic violence or abuse–such as spousal abuse–because of the unique nature of the parent/child relationship.

For one, most parents feel responsible for the behavior of the child, placing blame on themselves for having created the situation, and feeling a tremendous sense of guilt. Secondly, parents are legally responsible for their child. Getting away from the abuser is not as simple as moving out or going to a shelter. Also, the love a parent has for a child often results in the parent denying the severity of the problem, to excuse the behavior by labeling it a “phase.” Then, there’s the issue of feeling like a failure as a parent and not wanting to expose that failure.

Because of these challenges, typical domestic violence interventions will not work in situations of child to parent violence. It is important, not only for the child, but for the parent, to engage in programs specifically designed to address child to parent violence. For those who do, there is hope.

We invite your to access all the FAQs and free resources on our site to learn more about teen aggression and child to parent violence, what causes it, how to deal with it, and where to get help. Also, we encourage you to check out the programs we offer to help parents dealing with this issue. The investment is nominal in light of the benefits. If you need more information, please feel free to send us an e-mail as well.

Laurie Reid
Laurie Reid

Founder, Breaking the Cycle Consulting, Inc.

Share on Social Media:


Discover the Crucial First 3 Steps
for Dealing with Your Aggressive or Angry Child