Adolescent-to-Parent Violence in Adoptive Families

Family violence researches mainly focus on child abuse/violence perpetrated by adults in the family, usually parents. However, abuse can also be perpetrated by adolescents against an adult victim who is a parent. In this case, the adolescent can physically or psychologically abuse the victim. 

General studies show that most adolescent-to-parent violence is psychological aggression rather than physical. Female adolescents tend to commit more psychological violence through verbal abuse than males. Meanwhile, physical violence is more likely to be committed by male adolescents. Female parents are usually the victims of this type of family violence.

In adoptive families, adolescent-to-parent violence can occur because of the child’s background, that is, if their previous home was violent. Adolescents that have experienced severe abuse from previous foster homes or their biological family may portray some abusive behaviors towards their foster family. Perhaps, they have not been in a loving family environment and are used to caring for themselves.  

They may also tend to be aggressive towards their adoptive parents if they do not feel welcomed in the household. Adolescents can also be abusive if they wish to detach themselves from their parents. Such adolescents may believe the parent constantly invades their privacy and respond through aggressive or violent behaviors. 

Usually, parents find it hard to respond to adolescent violence to avoid child abuse, and many parents seek help late because of stigma. They may fear the societal judgment that insinuates they have bad parenting skills. Parents that experience adolescent violence do not have government agencies that can protect or support them. Usually, the solution from child services may be to remove the child from their custody. 

Adolescents with violent behaviors resulting from abusive family relationships in the past may need professional help. Adopters that are victims of adolescent violence can contact the Domestic Violence Unit of the Collin County District Attorney Office. The unit is dedicated to handling family violence cases in the county area. The DA office educates police officers under this unit on unusual family violence cases, such as adolescent-to-parent violence, and how to handle them. They can also secure help for the adolescent child if they show signs of trauma from previous abusive relationships.