Report reveals extent of domestic violence perpetrated by children

April 23, 2015

Article published 720 ABC Perth 21 April 2015 by Emma Wynne

A report has revealed more than 2,000 children in Western Australia have been arrested for violence towards parents and siblings, and that there are no dedicated services to combat the problem.

Source 720 ABC Perth

The report, prepared by Sarah Broadhead from Women’s Health and Family Services, details police statistics showing between 2009 and 2014, there were 1,416 arrests of children aged 10–17 years for assault, 389 arrests for threatening behaviour and 181 for sexual assault.

Ms Broadhead said those figures represent only “the tip of the iceberg” and that domestic violence by children is under-reported.

“A lot of people don’t report due to shame or embarrassment, and that’s understandable, especially when it comes to your own kids,” she told 720 ABC Perth.

The most at-risk group is single mothers, particularly in cases of divorce or family breakdown.

“Predominantly, looking at the police statistics, we are seeing assaults,” she said.

“That can range from physical and verbal abuse, financial abuse or injuries that result in hospitalisation.

“One of our clients had her hand smashed in a door, resulting in multiple fractures.”

‘Cycle of violence’ contributes to youth attacks

The research also found that, unlike adult violence, drugs and alcohol were not found to have any connection to youth family violence.

“It was more about the cycle of violence and most of the kids that are perpetrating violence have grown up with it as a normal way of life in their house,” Ms Broadhead said.

“Other determinants are things like childhood maltreatment, poor parenting style and youth mental health disorders like ADHD.”

When it came to parenting style, an excessively permissive parenting style could contribute to violent behaviour in children as much as a strict, authoritarian approach, she said.

Women’s Health and Family Services hopes the report will spur government action, recommending youth violence be included in domestic violence policies.

“There are successful programs available internationally and in the eastern states of Australia that work with families regarding [youth violence in the home],” the report states.

“However, in Western Australia, there is still a lack of effective services and insufficient funding to implement the well-evaluated programs available elsewhere.”

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