Single parents live in fear of angry teens as abuse rises

GLADSTONE police say instances of single mothers being abused by their sons are becoming increasingly common, and have urged parents to discipline their children early.

Yelling, screaming, pushing, kicking and even mind games are all considered abusive behaviour but many Gladstone parents are in denial and find it difficult to admit they struggling, according to Senior Constable Dave Lemalu.

"It's out there; it does happen but police involvement is rare," he said.

"It's not reported as such, it has quite a stigma,

"I don't think parents understand their rights to be safe too."

Director of the Queensland centre for Domestic and Family Violence Heather Nancarrow said her research shows 8% of people surveyed believed they had been a victim of adolescent abuse.

And 36% said they had witnessed this form of abuse.

Children are very up to speed with their rights but parents may not fully understand theirs.

"We also found quite a degree of ambivalence about what's accepted and normal behaviour," Ms Nancarrow said.

Const Lemalu said in his experience, it was often single mothers who were worst affected and the abuse was generally from boys aged 13 and over.

"There's no real statistics at this stage; it's quite a new phenomenon," he said.

"Children are very up to speed with their rights but parents may not fully understand theirs.

"It's a very grey area… several shades of grey."

He said because single parents were more prevalent and the discipline role was traditionally the father's, no male role models for the adolescent could often be a contributing factor.

"It's probably too late or more difficult at 14 to start asserting that discipline," he said.

"You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink."

He recommended parents set boundaries early in life to prevent adolescent abuse in the future.

"Children need boundaries and are more accepting early on," he said.

Ms Nancarrow said many times what could be considered abuse from an adolescent could often be defensive behaviour.

"We need to be careful about assumptions," she said.

Const Lemalu urges parents who feel they are being abused to not keep it a secret and to seek help through local counselling services or police if safety was an issue.

Youth worker has seen increase in defiant behaviour, says parents need to seek help

Local support worker Ann Howard has seen an increase in adolescent to parent abuse.
Local support worker Ann Howard has seen an increase in adolescent to parent abuse. Brenda Strong

ANN Howard has only been a youth worker for 18 months, but she is already seeing a rise in adolescent to parent abuse in Gladstone.

"It is becoming more common," she said.

"There is a need for more help out there."

She said she can witness anything from violence to defiant behavior and there many parents who are struggling to cope.

"There is a stigma out there," she said.

"But parents need to seek help, while there is a need for more help there is some out there they just need to find it."

Mrs Howard suggested attending parenting courses or counseling sessions.

"More education is needed," she said.

"We are constantly getting more training on how to deal with these situations."

Who can help?

  • Parent line: 1300 30 1300
  • DV Connect: 1800 811 811
  • Relationships Australia: 1300 364 277
  • Lifeline: 13 11 14


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