Young people who are violent towards their parents in the UK

  • Alexandra Papamichail

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This qualitative study explores a form of family violence, namely, young people‘s violent
behaviour toward their parents. The aim is to fill a gap in the literature by giving voice to
young people whose voices have been marginalised, as well as to psychologists and
psychotherapists who work with them in the UK. The key areas of interest concern the
familial relationships and contexts within which young people are embedded, their
psychological states and how these are linked with violent behaviour. The conceptual
framework underlying this study is that of relational developmental systems, and the work
draws on theories of attachment, developmental trauma and family-systems. This work
emerges from a practitioner-researcher perspective within the disciplinary area of
developmental psychology and psychopathology.
Participant-observation and interviews were conducted with eight young people from two
different intervention programmes aiming to tackle violence against parents. In addition,
semi-structured interviews were conducted with five psychologists and/or
psychotherapists. All data were analysed from a critical realist perspective using
inductive, thematic analysis.
A number of key findings from the thematic analysis emerged. These include adverse
childhood experiences, disrupted attachments, lack of mentalization skills and emotional
dysregulation, dysfunctional family-systems, bi-drectional violence and a continuum of
violent behaviour toward siblings and schoolmates among others. This study shows that
current overarching conceptual frameworks in the field rely heavily on Duluth‘s feminist
model of adult domestic violence, demonstrating links between literature, policy and
practice. The contribution of this work is to highlight problems in applying the Duluth
framework to children‘s violence, and to suggest a new synthesis informed by tailored
interventions, attachment and trauma theory, upon which evidence-based interventions
may be based.
Date of AwardAug 2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorDiane Waller (Supervisor)

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