The Sunday Age
03 January 2016
Teenagers are increasingly emotionally and physically abusing their parents, lashing out when they don't get their way or are denied something.
Family psychologists and researchers have identified an increase in the number of cases of parents being abused by their kids, which they attribute to the sense of entitlement with which children grow up today.
"Much of the violence relates to young people wanting their parent to do something for them, or money or consumer goods like an iPhone or beauty products," said teen abuse researcher Jo Howard, who is also the executive manager at family support service Kildonan Uniting Care. "These sorts of things often trigger violence."
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner Mick Fuller said police were seeing more evidence of children assaulting their parents, particularly as children stay at home longer because of the housing affordability crisis.
"We are seeing an increase in reports of domestic violence assaults with children and parents. It's something we're watching closely," he said.
NSW crime statistics show that the percentage of domestic violence call-outs involving a child threatening and harassing their parent has risen from 5.7 per cent to 8 per cent in the past five years. Domestic violence-related assault of a parent by a child has risen from 7.6 per cent of call-outs to 8.3 per cent during the same period.
Ms Howard said that while some abusive teens had grown up in homes where there was trauma, violence, poverty and separation, others were simply products of the current parenting fashion of bolstering children's self-esteem.
"There is a strong focus on supporting young people's self-esteem, protecting them from any risk, they shouldn't suffer any disappointment, we have to do everything to support them," Ms Howard said. "They don't get to experience resilience, delayed gratification, or conflict resolution. They've learnt to demand and escalate their behaviour until their parents give in."
Ms Howard said two-thirds of the perpetrators were male, and more than 80 per cent of victims were the mother. The peak age for violence is 15 to 17. Canadian research suggests one in 15 families with teenagers experience this abuse, but there is no comparable research on Australian families.
Psychologists said parents were often unsure whether the abuse was just normal teenage acting-out behaviour, so they didn't clamp down on it early enough. The abuse tends to begin with verbal abuse, gradually progresses to property damage (such as walls and doors being kicked in), and ultimately physical assault of a parent.
"The first act of violence, parents are so shocked and taken aback they don't know how to respond," Ms Howard said. "It escalates to the point where parents are too intimidated and scared to stop the behaviour."