Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Calls to parent helpline on children's aggression increase, but charity fears many more parents feel too ashamed to seek support

I have received the following press release from Family Lives, a national charity providing help and support in all aspects of family life:

Family Lives’ updated aggression report finds calls to its Parentline regarding aggressive behaviour have increased by 2% and only 56% of respondents to an online survey had sought help for their child’s problem.

As part of its ‘Instructions Not Included’ campaign, Family Lives reveals that a growing number of parents are seriously concerned about their child's aggression and that many are unsure as to why their children display aggressive behaviour.  The updated report, ‘When Family Life Hurts: Family Experience of Aggression in Children’ calls for Government to recognise – in addition to early years support - the particular needs of many parents of older children and teenagers.

The updated report shows that:

Between July 2010 and June 2011, of 39,258 calls made to Parentline, 27% of callers were seeking advice from the charity’s helpline regarding their children’s behaviour with parents frequently reporting feelings of desperation, helplessness and shame.
Key Family Lives Aggression Facts and Figures

Statistics from Parentline, Family Lives’ free helpline for families showed that:

·         Calls about a child’s physical aggression have risen by 2% and calls about a child’s verbal aggression have risen by 4%

·         42.9% of calls about behaviour related to children aged 13-15 years

·         Parents calling about their child’s aggression were 30.3% more likely to suffer from stress than other callers, and 8.3% more likely to be suffering with anger

·         Children are more likely to suffer from identified or unidentified depression if they have behavioural concerns compared to other issues raised in long calls. They are more likely to self-harm, feel suicidal and suffer from    hyperactivity and feelings of isolation

·         Compared to June 09 - June 10 statistics, child stress, confusion, isolation and anger have increased by an average of 5.3% where a child is being verbally aggressive and by 5.4% in calls where a child is physically aggressive

·         Children who are physically aggressive were significantly more likely to be using drugs -(10.1% compared to 3.2% of all calls)  and to be in with a bad crowd - 10.9% compared to 3.4% of all calls.

Jeremy Todd, Chief Executive, Family Lives says: “Family Lives’ updated report highlights that children’s violent and aggressive behaviour in the home is a hidden and stigmatised issue and we must all continue to support families to help change their child’s behaviour and ultimately improve life chances.  There are many reasons that can explain why children behave in an aggressive way at home.  Answers commonly include an inadequate approach to parenting, a lack of respect, sudden and unpredictable changes to the family routine, parental domestic violence or bullying at school, which causes the anger and hurt to spill out at home. Children or young people often feel that home is a safe place to vent ones feelings.  Divorce and separation is considered to play its part in displays of aggressive child behaviour if co-parenting strategies are not discussed, agreed and implemented. Children can end up playing one parent off against another, or the non-resident parent may end up taking a back-seat with regards to discipline as they spend less time with the child. Whatever the reasons, children, parents, families and ultimately society will pay a huge cost if this growing area of concern is not addressed and parents must feel able to come forward to seek support without worrying about being judged.”

Family Lives asked respondents via a recent online web survey why they felt that their child behaved aggressively, what they felt influenced that behaviour and why they felt it was worse in the home.  Large numbers identified their children’s friends, or other members of the family as influences on their child’s aggressive behaviour, but a significant number (38.8%) were unsure, expressing their frustration with comments such as “That’s the $10,000 question”.

Parents talked about bullying, domestic violence, disabilities and mental health problems as triggers for the aggressive behaviour and identified inconsistent parenting and divorce and separation as other contributing factors.
Seeking help

Family Lives’ most recent online survey found that only 56% of parents had sought help for their child’s aggressive behaviour. This figure remained consistent with the findings from our 2010 survey, showing that families are still trying to cope alone with difficult behaviour.  An alarming 35% had not sought help because they did not know where to go to find that help, and a further 11% did not seek help because of they felt there was stigma attached to it.  Despite the impact on their family life, 20% of families did not seek help for fear of damaging their child’s life chances and instead suffered in silence trying to manage the behaviour themselves.

Family Lives Recommendations

The Charity is calling for the Coalition Government:

·        To ensure in its response to the Family Justice Review that Parents receive the support they need to meet their child’s needs during separation as early as possible in the process. Divorce and separation has been identified by a number of families responding to our online survey as a trigger for their child's aggressive behaviour.

·        To ensure that in focussing support on the early years, they do not lose sight of the problems of older and teenager children,  further stigmatising the seeking of support for families experiencing difficulties with children in this age bracket.

·        To commit to looking for sustainable ways to better integrate family support services with universal services.

To review the report visit

Parents concerned about verbal or physical abuse from their children can call Family Lives’ free and confidential helpline, Parentline, on 0808 800 2222, or email for a personalised reply within 3 days.

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