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Adolescent-to-parent violence : a qualitative analysis of emerging themes Monk, Peter Hugh


Adolescent physical assault of parents is a serious form of violence which has been given only minimal attention by researchers, social service providers, and the general public. The majority of knowledge about this topic comes from quantitative forms of research which focus on broad-based information regarding families in which such abuse occurs. In contrast, the aim of this study was to provide detailed qualitative descriptions of adolescent-to-parent violence from the perceptions of 3 groups of participants; youth, parents, and counsellors. Information from adolescents (2 male, 3 female) who have been physically violent toward their parents was gathered through the use of a semi-structured interview format. A similar process was used to obtain information from parents (6 female, 1 male) who have been assaulted by their adolescent children. Family counsellors (10 male, 11 female) from 3 separate service agencies were asked to share their knowledge and experience during semi-structured focus group interview sessions. The information gathered from these interviews was categorized through a qualitative form of content analysis which was guided by a critical constructivist perspective. Findings suggest that youth violence against parents can be viewed in terms of 1) contributing factors, 2) reinforcing factors, and 3) change factors. The contributing factors of violence toward parents include; socialization of male power, escalation of power struggles (intrafamilial and extrafamilial), abusive parenting, and organic conditions. Factors which reinforce this type of violence involve a variety of youth dynamics (lack of control, lack of remorse), parent dynamics (maintaining secrecy, excessive tolerance, blaming youth), and community responses (lack of legal, social service, and medical support). Finally, those factors which appear to decrease adolescent violence against parents focus around the youth (self-care, communication skills, sense of remorse, future thinking), the family (sensitivity, intimacy, clear consequences, social support), and the community (legal, social service, and medical interventions, meaningful connections).

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