630 parents’ worst nightmare

The majority of parents who reported domestic violence by their children between 2021 and 2023 were mothers, and half of the victims were aged 60 years or older.

Between 2021 and 2023, there were 568 reports of cases of parents registered as victims of domestic violence by their children. Police data indicate that these cases involved 630 people, since there were instances which icluded more than one individual.

You are probably pausing to read that again. Let’s break it down, in hopes that it becomes more digestible.

Between 2021 and 2023, there were four cases of grievous bodily harm with arms improper. The term ‘grievous’ signifies that the harm caused is more severe than minor or superficial injuries, and it typically involves injuries that require medical treatment, lead to significant loss of mobility or sensory functions, or have long-term health implications. ‘Arms improper’ are objects not originally intended to be used as a weapon, such as a cup, a chair, or a piece of wood.

There were six cases of grievous bodily harm with physical force.

There were 436 cases of psychological harm against parents. This encompasses a wide range of negative effects on a person’s psychological state, such as stress, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), loss of self-esteem, and emotional distress. Psychological harm can be caused by bullying, harassment, abuse (emotional, physical, or sexual), and enduring long-term neglect.

There were 12 cases of slight bodily harm by arms improper. Slight bodily harm, within the context of Maltese law, refers to minor physical injuries that do not result in serious or long-lasting damage to a person’s health. These are injuries that are less severe compared to grievous or serious bodily harm and typically do not require extensive medical treatment. Examples of slight bodily harm might include minor cuts, bruises, or abrasions that heal relatively quickly and without significant medical intervention.

There was one case of slight bodily harm by arms proper, and 106 cases of slight bodily harm with physical force.

There were three cases of stalking perpetrated by offspring against their parents. In Maltese law, stalking is recognised as a form of harassment and is addressed under the Criminal Code (Chapter 9 of the Laws of Malta). Specifically, stalking refers to engaging in a course of conduct that causes another person to fear for their safety. This may include following someone, repeatedly communicating with them in a way that causes distress, loitering near their home or place of work, and any other behaviour that could be seen as threatening or harassing.

Here is a more detailed distribution of how these transgressions were committed over a short span of time:

Now, when it comes to the actual reasons why offspring become violent towards their parents, that’s a really complicated question to answer.

The most obvious assumption is that abuse towards parents is the result of bad parenting in the first place, but that’s a really sketchy assumption. In fact, in Osofsky’s 1999 observation of ‘The impact of violence on children’, there are many factors that come into play. One plausible theory is that children exposed to violence through television, films, and music might start to view such behaviour as ‘normal’.

The Journal learnt that the term ‘parental abuse’ is comparatively recent. Harbin and Madden introduced the concept of ‘parent battery’ in their 1979 study, although the broader issue of juvenile delinquency, a significant contributing factor, has been examined since the late 1800s.

Despite research conducted the world over, accurately gauging the prevalence of adolescent violence against parents is challenging due to underreporting. In fact, though the figures presented above may seem plenty, there might be many more that will never be heard of. It’s easy to understand why. There’s a real lot of embarrassment involved when the person you raised turns into a being of abominable behaviour. You might not even realise straight away, or come to admit, that you are being abused. Love is a blinding phenomenon.

There are also situations that require a lot of empathy, such as mental illnesses. Parents are meant to protect their children: it’s an instinct. The lines where that instinct stops and self-protection kicks in become severely blurred and potentially smudged by compassion and heartbreak when children are involved.

However, as a nation, we need to start to address this phenomenon seriously. It was recently brought up in Parliament, where Minister for Home Affairs, Security, Reforms, and Equality, Byron Camilleri, reported that the majority of parent victims were mothers, and half of the victims were aged 60 years or older. Whilst it’s positive that this is being all the more recognised as a real phenomenon, it’s imperative that there’s more awareness and proactive measures to get to the root causes and address the issue.

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