Filio-parental violence: what is it and why

Filio-parental violence is that of children against their parents. It usually passes from underage men to the mother, but not necessarily. The assaults can be both physical and psychological or material and occur repeatedly, with the aim of maintaining control of family dynamics. Likewise, significant cycles of violence are generated which have a negative impact both on the victims and on the family itself.

In this article, we will take a closer look at what filio-parental violence is, why it can happen and what are some of its consequences.

    What is filio-parental violence?

    Filio-parental violence is a type of domestic violence characterized by a set of aggressive acts perpetrated by a child towards its parent, which makes the latter feel threatened, intimidated and controlled (Paterson, Luntz, Perlesz and Cotton , 2002, cited by Gámez-Guadix and Calvete, 2012).

    In the Spanish penal code, filio-parental violence is classified in article 173 (2) and is defined as “habitual abuse in the family”, the main characteristic of which is the civil or cohabitation relationship between the victim and the aggressor, Which does not necessarily imply the biological link between the two (Molla-Esparza and Aroca-Montolío, 2018). In other words, the victim is the one who has a civil responsibility towards the aggressor, even if it is not always the parent.

    main Features

    Parental violence can occur both in blood-related families and in foster, adoptive or reconstructed families. Likewise, aggression can directly or indirectly, and violence can be verbal, psychological, material or economic, physical or sexual.

    These abuses are also characterized by the presence of behaviors of intimidation, control, domination or power on the part of the aggressor, which are committed intentionally and which may cause harm or pain to the victim. On the other hand, assaults can be committed by one or more members of the family, and directed against one or more members of the same.

    As it is a socially unacceptable phenomenon, one of the characteristics of child-parental violence is that it usually stays hidden in the familiar breast, Which worsens the circle of violence. Likewise, it is a phenomenon which, until recently, had not been studied.

    Especially when it comes to minor children, this phenomenon is often concealed, as the responsibility for the child’s behavior usually lies entirely with the parents, in many cases with the mother, who this is precisely the object of the aggression of the majority.

    Currently, filio-parental violence has gained particular interest, so there is a large amount of specialized literature on the subject.

      Why is this happening?

      The forensic psychologist and mediator of minors from the Community of Madrid, Javier Urra, is one of the most recognized specialists in the research and description of filio-parental violence.

      He tells us that in most cases are performed by a minor aged 12-18, And that the aggression occurs mainly towards the mother. He is usually the oldest of the children, although they could be younger children, which usually happens when the older ones have left the house.

      The same psychologist explains that filio-parental violence is linked to the development of dominant personalities and behaviors in children, which in turn is the consequence of both an excessively permissive society and previous exposure to violence.

      Following on from the above, we will briefly examine below the relationship between child-parental violence and experiences of violence inside and outside the family, as well as some of the causes for which filio-parental violence is intensified within families.

      Relationship between filio-parental violence and exposure to violence

      Urra (2006) does not say that some of the elements that surround child abuse and which represent significant risk factors are:

      • Violence learned by proxy, For example, from father to mother treatment.
      • When it comes to children of separated parents, it can happen by the influence of the father’s comments on the mother, And vice versa, as well as for certain lifestyles with new couples.
      • In adopted boys, this may be due to a history of violence or patronizing parenting styles that make up for the lack of blood connection.

      On the other hand, Molla-Esparza and Aroca-Montolío (2018), in their review of the scientific literature on filio-parental violence, tell us that violent behavior occurs when the individual he has learned to use force of any kind on another personIt is a mechanism for achieving goals, solving problems and resolving conflicts, in a setting where there is a real or perceived power imbalance.

      The latter is in addition to studies on the explanatory model of the intergenerational theory of violence, which report how the observation or experience of abuse is a risk factor triggering filio-parental violence.

      In other words, direct or indirect exposure to violence, which among other things results in the inability to firmly reject inappropriate behavior, increases the likelihood that a dynamic of violence between children and parents will develop. This exposure usually occurs indoors, Although this can also occur on the street or in other environments nearby.

        Intensification through two-way violence in the family

        Following the previous line, Sancho, 2016 tells us that filio-parental violence is a phenomenon that is not only a problem of the child, but of the family as a whole. Indeed, on the one hand, dynamic violence is often experienced negatively by all members of the family. On the other hand, all kinds of domestic violence it has a number of elements that speak of relational dynamics and conflicts and not just individuals.

        For example, it often happens that desperate attempts are made to re-establish hierarchy, thus establishing a dynamic of two-way violence, which, perceived as aggression by both parties, is justified as a form of self-defense (Molla-Esparza and Aroca -Montolío, 2018). This intensifies and lengthens the cycle of violence, however, these dynamics, which lead to the violent relationship, can be traced, identified and changed.

        Emotional consequences on parents and prevention strategy

        We have seen that filio-parental violence is that by which the child engages in abusive behavior against his parents, or against those who exercise this function. the last it happens consciously or intentionally as well as repeatedly overtime.

        It should be noted that the two preceding elements, intentionality and repetition, are determining factors for the behaviors to be defined as abuse, and are distinguished from a one-off assault which is not considered to be filial violence. parental (Molla-Esparza and Aroca-Montolío, 2018).

        On the other hand, the immediate aim of the exercise of violence is not so much to cause harm as to control the dynamics generated with the victim. However, harm is one of the inevitable consequences, as this area is pursued by psychological, emotional, physical or economic violence.

        The main consequence of the latter is the prolonged experience of pain and frustration among parents, For the situation of violence and also for the feeling of not having the means to avoid or counter it. It can also cause significant difficulties with the couple or with whom custody of the child is shared.

        More specifically, depending on the frequency and intensity of the assault, parental violence can lead to concealment, guilt, shame, and a sense of failure, to name just a few of the major emotional consequences for parents.

        Finally, according to the research of Molla-Esparza and Aroca-Montolío (2018), the higher the level of helplessness and confusion of the latter, the greater the risk of perpetuating the cycle of violence, because it generates between the need to to give in and on the other hand the need to defend oneself; this is why prevention and intervention strategies must act to break the coercive dynamics of this cycle.

        Bibliographical references:

        • Molla-Esparza, C. and Aroca-Montolío, C. (2018). Children Who Abuse Their Parents: A Global Definition and Their Cycle of Violence. Yearbook of Legal Psychology, 28: 15-21.
        • Sancho, JL. (2016). Filioparental violence: psychosocial characteristics of adolescents and parents in serious family conflict situations. Doctoral thesis, Faculty of Psychology, Complutense University of Madrid.
        • Rodriguez, N. (2017). Study of filio-parental violence: analysis of a juvenile court case. Final degree project in psychology, Jaume I University.
        • Gámez-Guadix, M. and Calvete, I. (2012). Filioparental violence and its association with exposure to domestic violence and parental assault on children. Psicothema, 24 (2): 277-283.
        • Urra, J. (2006). The little dictator. When parents are the victims. The sphere of books: Madrid.

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