Parental abuse by dependent adult children: An emerging form of family violence?

Gemma Hamilton1, Lisa Harris1, Anastasia Powell1
1RMIT University , Melbourne , Australia

Research regarding family violence has typically focused on the violence between two intimate partners, or abuse perpetrated by parents towards their children. A less recognised form of family violence is parent abuse: a pattern of behaviour that uses verbal, financial, physical or emotional means to exert power and control over a parent. The bulk of the research that examines parent abuse either concentrates on adolescent-to-parent abuse where the child is aged between 10-18 years, or elder abuse where the victim is of post-retirement age (and the perpetrator may or may not be the victim’s child). The following paper focuses on an even further hidden category of family violence that involves the abuse of parents by their dependent adult children aged over 18 years. This paper draws on pilot data from an evaluation of a police-social services approach to family violence in Victoria, as well as three de-identified police case files involving child perpetrators aged over 18 years in order to shed light on this emerging category of family violence. Particular attention is paid to the service responses to such cases. The pilot data, together with the case studies, suggest that parent abuse by dependent adult children is a unique issue that currently lacks research and specialist responses within the family violence service system. This paper acts as a catalyst for future conversations and research about family violence that involves parent abuse by dependent adult children.

Dr. Gemma Hamilton is a post-doctorate research officer within the Gendered Violence and Abuse Research Alliance (GeVARA) at RMIT University. Her research focuses on violence against women and children, with expertise in family violence, sexual assault, and forensic interviewing. She is also a sessional lecturer in criminology and justice studies.


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