Why are we abusing our parents? The ugly facts of family violence and ageism

3 Feb 2016

Although population ageing is overwhelmingly a good thing, representing a healthier population overall and a longer more productive lifespan for most, it also means an increase in elder abuse. There is little public awareness of the extent and nature of elder abuse. Consequently, it is rarely recognised even by those who may be perpetrating or on the receiving end of it.

Older people experiencing abuse from family members share the same experience as women suffering intimate partner violence in having someone close to them, whom they ought to be able to trust, perniciously erode their sense of safety and wellbeing through excessive use of power and control.

However, when adult children abuse their parents, feelings of parental love and responsibility coupled with shame and guilt for having “failed” as a parent often stop the parent from seeking help and protecting themselves.

The intergenerational nature of elder abuse differentiates it from other forms of family violence. It means that empowerment of older people and recognition of their rights at both a societal and individual level are crucial.

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