Family violence is not just a problem between parents anymore, with research from Flinders University showing a growing number of children are becoming perpetrators of violent and abusive behaviour in the family home.
Flinders law lecturer Ms Mary McKenna said her current PhD studies have found more young people were taking their problems out on their parents, resulting in abusive behaviour and physical violence that often goes under-reported as families feel too ashamed to speak out.
To tackle the issue, Flinders and a team of services providers in Adelaide’s southern suburbs have convened at the Woodcroft/Morphett Vale Community Centre (Friday, February 24) to launch a new community awareness campaign.
In partnership with Relationships Australia (SA) and Southern Junction Community Services, the Respectful Relationships project aims to provide more support to families, carers and professionals in dealing with violent and abusive behaviour from children and teenagers.
As part of the program, an information booklet and wallet card called Walking on Eggshells has been developed to assist and inform families, while a series of training seminars will be held in the coming months to better empower helping professionals to handle cases of teen violence.
Ms McKenna said the project comes as a direct result of a 2010 study, Exposing the dark side of parenting: A report on parents’ experiences of family violence, which recommended “a real need” for greater community awareness and support.
“In many cases parents were saying that when they sought help, they didn’t get the support they needed,” Ms McKenna, who co-authored the report, said.
“One of the other big problems we know is that parents are absolutely loath to report violence to police because they’re concerned it’s going to impact their child’s future,” she said.
“There’s often a lot of guilt and shame around the issue and parents don’t like to admit they’re having trouble at home so consequently it remains hidden.”
Ms McKenna said 12 to16 year old boys were generally the main perpetrators of violence, usually toward their mothers, and the problem was just as common among two-parent, middle income households as it was in low socioeconomic areas.
Reasons for the abuse included a combination of drug and alcohol problems, mental health issues and an “inflated sense of entitlement”, she said.
Ms McKenna said the overall aim of Respectful Relationships was to equip professionals with knowledge on the issue, so they can better support their clients.
“This project will make a huge difference because it’s going to help professionals in their understanding and ultimately it will be of great assistance to families because they can finally feel confident that there is help available to get them through these difficult times,” she said.