Parents  threatened with violence by teens being kept indoors during pandemic

Parents  threatened with violence by teens being kept indoors during pandemic
Social worker Caithríona O'Neill.

Parents are being threatened with physical violence as they struggle to keep their teenagers indoors during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Caithríona O’Neill, a social worker with Cuanlee refuge for abused women and children, said they are experiencing a new phenomenon since last week, in which parents are calling with concerns about abusive children as opposed to partners.

The refuge offers support to those affected by domestic abuse.

Ms. O' Neill said that there has been an increase in the number of people in search of help from the centre. 

Some people were seeking support due to child to parent violence. Child to parent abuse can happen in single and two-parent households.

“We are seeing a huge difference in the calls we are getting,” said the social worker.

“Some of the children are older teens, while others are young adults.

“They are off school and not going out of the house and may be abusive to parents who are trying to stop them from going out of the house with friends.

“There has been a lot of intimidation and threats of physical violence.”

She described the underlying difficulties facing parents suffering from this type of abuse.

“Abuse from children is completely different to abuse from a partner,” said Ms O’Neill.

“It’s very difficult to be a parent while still navigating those boundaries you put in place to protect yourself.

“In this situation you may not even be just protecting yourself but other family members too.”

She expressed concern at the trend, adding: “This is something that’s not spoken about a lot in society.

“We have worked with parents in the past suffering physical abuse from their children who are still living with them and are now in their 30s and 40s.

“However, hearing of teenagers and older adults physically abusing their parents is very new to us.”

Often, she said, parents are just looking to have their experiences validated.

“A lot of the time when they phone us they are looking to speak with someone who will validate their experiences,” she said.

“The patterns of abuse can be very different. Sometimes it’s physical abuse. Other times the threat of physical abuse alone is enough to cause fear in a household. Abuse is all about power and control.”

Ms O’Neill said that parents often avoid the topic out of shame.

“It’s a hard thing to talk about. People can feel embarrassed and ashamed,” she said.

“A lot of the time we are just a listening ear for parents.

“I think this is something we are going to see a rise in over the next few weeks as parents try desperately to keep their children indoors.

“It’s going to spark arguments and in some cases physical abuse. Even if the violence only happened once, the threat that it might happen again is enough to leave parents in fear.”

Ms O’Neill also voiced grave concern for those with abusive partners and said the next few weeks will be very difficult for them.

“Before, the person had a break. They could go stay in a family member’s or friend’s.

“That’s not possible at the moment because of social distancing necessities. The next few weeks are going to be very hard for people.”

  • Those suffering abuse at the hands of a partner or family member can contact Cuanlee on 021-4277698 or email For more information on the organisation, visit

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