What is CAPVA?

Respect uses the term Child and Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse (CAPVA) to describe the dynamic where a young person (8 years -18 years) engages in repeated abusive behaviour towards a parent or adult carer.

Abusive behaviour can include physical violence; emotional, economic or sexual abuse; and coercive control. It may also include damage to property and abuse towards other family members, particularly siblings.

Read our full definition here

How does CAPVA impact families?

Experiencing CAPVA can be devastating. Families report high levels of distress, and a negative impact on the mental health of all those involved. 

Recent research from London’s Violence Reduction Unit found that:

  • 40% of those experiencing CAPVA refuse to report it. 
  • The majority of CAPVA cases involve boys in late adolescence and their mothers, and is most likely to be physical violence.
  • Parents/carers interviewed said they only contacted the police at crisis points when they felt they had no other choice and were afraid for their physical safety.
  • All parents/carers affected said they had experienced multiple incidents of violence before reaching crisis point.

How common is CAPVA?

CAPVA is known as a hidden harm. It's common for parents and young people to feel shame about this behaviour, and many are scared that their child will be criminalised or  removed from the family. As a result, CAPVA incidents often go unreported.

Adding to this, there isn’t a universally agreed definition for CAPVA. This means that when families do report, the recording of incidents is inconsistent across agencies. 

What we do know is:

  • In a youth offending sample, Respect and Numbers for Good found the prevalence of CAPVA in caseloads were between 21 and 27%, and between 64 and 67% of police Domestic Abuse incidents where the suspect was under 18. There were also significant levels of CAPVA reported in Children's Social Care, including Early Help caseloads.
  • Between 6 March 2019 and 4 January 2020, Northumbria police responded to an average of two incidents of CAPVA per day (515 total).

In a 2021 report commissioned by the Domestic Abuse Commissioner, we called for a shared definition to improve measurements of prevalence and access to support. This call was supported further by research from London’s Violence Reduction Unit.

How does Respect address CAPVA?

The Respect Young People’s Programme (RYPP) is a well-evidenced intervention designed to address CAPVA. Our team trains groups of professionals to deliver the programme.

Read more about the RYPP

Where can families access support with CAPVA?

Respect lists CAPVA support providers in a specialist directory for parents and practitioners.

Holes in the Wall – A blog focusing on CAPVA created by social worker and CAPVA expert, Helen Bonnick. The blog is aimed at parents, professionals and academics.

CAPA First Response – An organisation focusing on CAPVA, providing information and support for parents and professionals.

Family Lives – An organisation providing information and support around CAPVA. 

Respect is a registered charity in England and Wales, number 1141636, in Scotland, number SC051284 and a company, number 7582438. Registered address: VAI Second Floor, 200a Pentonville Road, London N1 9JP
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