Finding the balance: Dealing with adolescent violence in the home

Sep 16
Author:Jo Howard
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Adolescent violence in the home can be a tricky issue to discuss publicly – it’s easy for the media to sensationalise the issue and claim this generation of young people are entitled, under disciplined and narcissistic. Adolescence, like toddlerhood, is a period of development which is self, rather than other, focused. Adolescents grow into well adjusted adults through the development of empathy and caring for others and through learning the skills of delayed gratification, self-accomplishment and dealing with disappointment, conflict and tricky relationships. The worst media focus is one where adolescents are viewed in a pejorative way or parents are blamed for not being ‘good enough’.  

The issue is complex; it exists in a society where marketing actively encourages adolescents to acquire the best and newest devices, clothes and to spend significant sums of money to ‘look good’.  Parents are also targeted; they fear if they don’t provide the right consumer products, activities or finances their child may ‘miss out’ and not achieve their full potential.  Hence the term; FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). And adolescents’ achievements are seen to be a direct reflection on their parents’ ability to support them to succeed in life.  

Parents are so worried about ‘what ifs’ … they become over involved in their adolescent’s life and decision making.  Whilst adolescence should be an opportunity to experiment, to try out independence and to make mistakes (and learn by doing so), many do not get this opportunity.

Family violence

Some adolescents, particularly male adolescents who use violence against mothers, may have experienced family violence.  Family violence negatively impacts on the mother/child relationship, if interferes with a mother’s ability to effectively parent and of course leaves women and their children impacted by trauma.  This also contributes to the use of violence; particularly where boys adopt their father’s attitudes and behaviours to women.  

Many parents also report the violence is inexplicable; one child is the family may use violence whilst others do not.  

So… changes to society, to family relationships and to parenting practice certainly contribute to any real or perceived rise on abuse and violence towards parents (and other anti-social behaviours).  Poverty, and its accompanying stress take a toll.  Gendered assumptions that adolescents have about the role of mothers plays a role.  As does family dynamics and history, parenting and relationships and the individual make up of the adolescent.

All hard to convey to the media who often look for the sensationalist perspective.  Also important to highlight the issue and advocate for family based approaches to response; which keep adolescents, parents and other family members safe, supported and secure.


If you or someone you know has been affected by domestic violence, call the National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line, 1800-RESPECT (1800 737 732). In an emergency, call 000.

Criterion’s series of Social Services conferences cover topics including Family Violence, Youth Services, NDIS, Financial Sustainability and more. View upcoming events here.

Submitted by Jo Howard

Jo Howard

Jo Howard is a social worker and family therapist who has worked in the child, youth and family and family violence sectors for over 30 years across service delivery, research, policy and management.

She has presented and published extensively including two books “Mothers and Sons – bringing up boys as a sole parent” and a parenting manual “Bringing Up Boys”. Jo has written and presented extensively on family violence. She has worked in and/or delivered men’s behavioural change programs, women’s and children’s programs, adolescent family violence and GLBTI family violence.

Her role as Executive Manager, Child, Youth & Family programs at Kildonan UnitingCare includes oversight of men’s behavioral change programs, including specialist South Asian, Arabic speaking and fathering programs.

Jo is particularly interested in breaking intergenerational cycles of violence and believes a stronger focus on fathering in men’s behavioral change programs can contribute to achieving this.

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