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One-in-five parents suffers abuse from their own children

UP to one in five Irish parents will experience violence from their children.

Most keep quiet about it and suffer in silence because of shame and guilt that they have failed as parents.

And if you are a lone parent, the figure goes up to as high as one in three, a conference in Bray heard.

Barbara McAllister of Bray Women's Refuge said that over the past couple of years she had noticed more women seeking help because they were afraid to go home, not because of a violent spouse or partner but because of a child.

"We've had cases where the child was as young as eight or nine up to adult children," she said.

"The kind of behaviour we're talking about is threats, breaking up the furniture, stealing from parents, screaming at them, physically attacking them, killing the cat -- a whole range.

"It's a hidden abuse because parents are reluctant to talk about it.


"They feel they are failures as parents and they feel guilt and shame.

"They don't want to report it to the police because they don't want their children to have a criminal record and they don't feel they can approach a social worker because it's not the child who's being abused," she said.

Last week, the Herald reported that one speaker at the conference, Declan Coogan, a lecturer in Political Science and Sociology at NUI Galway, said child/parent abuse is an emerging issue in Ireland.

Data from the US suggested that 18pc of two-parent and 29pc of one-parent families experience child-to-parent violence, with mothers being the likely target of such violence from their children, he said.

"I imagine it would be similar here," he said.

Mr Coogan said gardai, social workers and healthcare staff should start formally recording incidents as "child-to-parent violence" so that the problem was recognised and its scale acknowledged.

"Where child-to-child violence is recorded, it tends to be categorised as family conflict which covers a myriad of different situations," he said.

Child-to-parent violence is defined as relating to children aged 10 to 18 and Mr Coogan said it was important to differentiate it from normal difficult teenage behaviour.


Parentline, the charity that supports parents under stress, said it had recorded a 22pc increase in calls to its helpline relating specifically to anger and aggression by children against their parents between 2010 and 2011.