Developing the police response to child-to-parent violence

Full report

Powerpoint presentation


In 2018, child-to-parent violence (CPV) was described in the House of Commons as ‘a very significant issue’ and ‘a growing problem’ (HC Deb 21 Feb 2018). As with all forms of family violence, the police are at the forefront of responding to the physical, emotional, psychological and financial harm caused by some children to parents (including step, adoptive, and foster parents) and carers. At the N8 Policing Research Partnership (PRP) Knowledge Exchange Conference 2018, which was on CPV, police officers and academics described the lack of knowledge and practice guidance in this important area of policing. This project was developed in collaboration with two police forces in the north of England to address this knowledge gap. One of the forces covers Site A, a sparsely populated, predominantly rural county. The other covers Site B, a densely populated, predominantly metropolitan urban county. The resident population of Site B is over five times that of Site A.

This report examines the 4,281 cases of CPV by children aged 10 – 19 years reported to police in Sites A and B between 1 January 2018 and 31 December 2018. It also presents insights from interviews with police officers in the sites, and a survey for parents and carers from England and Wales, conducted between 2019 and 2020.

Key findings

  • There was repeat perpetration and victimisation in both sites over the 12 month data collection period.
  • Most of the children involved were male. Most of the parents and carers were female.
  • Violence against the person accounted for two thirds of all cases across the two sites. Criminal damage and theft were also common. Although rare, sexual violence appeared in the dataset.
  • Child protection concerns were noted in relation to most children in Site B. (This information was not retrieved from Site A).
  • The police crime notes provided evidence of neurological disorders, developmental difficulties and mental health concerns in relation to some children.
  • The vast majority of cases resulted in no further action being taken. This was usually due to ‘evidential difficulties’ because parents and carers were not supportive of (or withdrew support for) further action.
  • ‘Out of court’ resolutions were used in some cases.
  • During interview, police officers discussed many of the key risk factors for CPV. The effect of experiencing violence within the family home was rarely mentioned, however.
  • In the context of CPV, taking ‘positive action’ often meant providing temporary respite and making referrals to wider support services. There was no presumption of arrest and charge.
  • Officers noted the need for more children’s social care, mental health provision, and police staff.

Forty-one parents and carers from England and Wales described their experiences of CPV in relation to 54 children. Many parents were positive about the police response. However, some suggested that the causes of CPV – including childhood trauma, mental health problems, and neurological / developmental difficulties – are not well understood, and that the severity of the risk posed is not always recognised.

The research was conducted by Dr Sam Lewis, Dr Ella Holdsworth and Dr Jose Pina-Sánchez from the School of Law at the University of Leeds, in collaboration with two northern police forces.

For further information please contact Sam Lewis by email (