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Filio-parental violence: what it is and why it happens

Filio-parental violence: what it is and why it happens

November 29, 2022

Filio-parental violence is that exercised by children towards parents . It usually happens on the part of underage males to the mother, although not necessarily. Assaults can be physical, psychological or material and occur repeatedly, with the aim of maintaining control of family dynamics. For this reason, significant cycles of violence are generated that have a negative impact both on the victims and on the family itself.

In this article we will see in more detail what filio-parental violence is, why it may occur and what are some of its consequences.

  • Related article: "Domestic violence and its effects on children"

What is filio-parental violence?

Filio-parental violence is a type of intrafamily violence that is characterized by a set of aggressive acts that are perpetrated by a minor towards his or her parent, causing the latter to feel threatened, intimidated and controlled (Paterson, Luntz, Perlesz and Cotton, 2002, cited by Gámez-Guadix and Calvete, 2012).


In the Spanish penal code, filio-parental violence is typified in article 173 (2) and is defined as "habitual abuse in the family environment", where the main characteristic is the civil or coexistence relationship between the victim and the aggressor , which does not necessarily imply the biological link between both (Molla-Esparza and Aroca-Montolío, 2018). In other words, the victim is the one who has a civil responsibility with the aggressor, even if it is not always the parent.

Main features

Filio-parental violence can occur both in families that have a blood link, as well as in foster, adoptive or reconstructed families. Likewise, the aggression may be direct or indirect, and the abuse can be verbal, psychological, material or economic, physical or sexual .


Such abuse is also characterized by the presence of intimidation, control, domination or power behavior on the part of the aggressor, which are carried out intentionally and which may cause injury or pain to the victim. On the other hand, aggressions can be exercised by one or several members of the family nucleus, and addressed to one or several members of the same.

As it is a socially unacceptable phenomenon, one of the characteristics of filio-parental violence is that usually kept hidden within the family , which aggravates the circle of violence. Therefore, it is a phenomenon that until recently had not been studied.

Especially when it comes to minor children, this phenomenon is often covered up, since responsibility for the child's behavior tends to fall completely on the parents, in many cases on the mother, who is precisely the object of aggression in the majority .


Currently, filio-parental violence has gained special interest, so there is a large amount of specialized literature on the subject.

  • Maybe you get involved: "The 6 stages of childhood (physical and psychic development)"

Because it happens?

The clinical-forensic psychologist and Defender of the Minor of the Community of Madrid, Javier Urra, is one of the most recognized specialists in the investigation and description of filio-parental violence.

It tells us that in The majority of cases are carried out by a minor male between 12 and 18 years old , and that the aggression occurs mainly towards the mother. It is usually the oldest child, although it may be minor children, which usually happens when the elderly have left home.

The same psychologist explains that filio-parental violence is related to the development of personalities and dominant behaviors of children, which in turn is a consequence of both an excessively permissive society and the previous exposure to violence.

Following the above, we will briefly look at the relationship between filio-parental violence and experiences of violence inside and outside the family, as well as some of the causes for which filio-parental violence is invented within families .

Relationship between filio-parental violence and exposure to violence

Urra (2006) does not say that some of the elements that surround filio-parental violence and that represent important risk factors are the following:

  • Violence learned vicariously , for example, of the father's treatment of the mother.
  • When it comes to children of separated parents, it may occur by the influence of father's comments on the mother , and vice versa, as well as for certain styles of coexistence with new couples.
  • In adopted children it can occur due to a history of violence or patronizing parenting styles that compensate for the lack of blood bonding.

On the other hand, Molla-Esparza and Aroca-Montolío (2018), in their review of the scientific literature on filio-parental violence, tell us that violent behavior occurs when the individual has learned to use force of any kind on another individual , being this a mechanism to achieve objectives, solve problems and solve conflicts, within a framework where there is an imbalance of real or perceived power.

The latter is added to the studies on the explanatory model of the intergenerational theory of violence, which report how the observation or experience of abuse is a risk factor that triggers filio-parental violence.

In other words, direct or indirect exposure to violence, which among other things brings with it the inability to firmly reject inappropriate behaviors, increases the likelihood that a dynamic of violence will develop from children to parents. This exposure usually occurs within the home , although it can also happen on the street or within other nearby environments.

  • Related article: "The 11 types of violence (and the different kinds of aggression)"

Intensification by bidirectional violence within the family

Following the previous line, Sancho, 2016 tells us that filio-parental violence is a phenomenon that is not only a problem of the child, but of the family as a whole. This is because, on the one hand, the dynamic violence is usually lived in a negative way by all the members of the family. On the other hand, all types of intrafamily violence has a series of elements that speak of relational dynamics and conflicts and not just individuals.

For example, it often happens that desperate attempts are made to reestablish the hierarchy, thus installing a dynamic of bidirectional violence, which, when perceived as an aggression on both sides, is justified as a form of self-defense (Molla-Esparza and Aroca- Montolío, 2018). This intensifies and lengthens the cycle of violence, however, these dynamics, which lead to the violent relationship, can be traced, identified and modified.

Emotional consequences in parents and prevention strategy

We have seen that filio-parental violence is that through which the child engages in abusive behavior against his or her parents, or against those who perform that function. This last occurs consciously or intentionally, as well as repeated over a period of time

It should be noted that the two previous elements, intentionality and repetition, are determining factors for behaviors to be defined as abuse, and are distinguished from a specific aggression that is not considered filio-parental violence (Molla-Esparza and Aroca-Montolío, 2018).

On the other hand, the immediate purpose of the exercise of violence is not so much to cause harm as to obtain control of the dynamics generated with the victim. However, harm is one of the inevitable consequences, since such dominance is pursued through psychological, emotional, physical, or economic violence.

The main consequence of this last is the prolonged experience of suffering and frustration in the parents , because of the violent situation and also because of the lack of resources to avoid or counteract it. Likewise it can imply important difficulties with the couple or with whom the care of the child is shared.

Specifically, depending on the frequency and intensity of the aggressions, filio-parental violence can cause concealment, guilt, shame and a sense of failure, to mention some of the main emotional consequences in the parents.

Finally, according to the research of Molla-Esparza and Aroca-Montolío (2018), the higher the level of impotence and confusion on the part of these, the higher the risk of perpetuating the cycle of violence, since it is generated between the need give up and on the other hand that of defending oneself; For this reason, prevention and intervention strategies must act to break the coercive dynamic of this cycle.

Bibliographic references:

  • Molla-Esparza, C. and Aroca-Montolío, C. (2018). Children who mistreat their parents: Integral definition and its Cycle of Violence. Yearbook of Legal Psychology, 28: 15-21.
  • Sancho, JL. (2016). Filioparental violence: psychosocial characteristics of adolescents and parents in severe family conflict. Doctoral Thesis, Faculty of Psychology, Complutense University of Madrid.
  • Rodríguez, N. (2017). Study of filio-parental violence: analysis of a case of the juvenile court. Final Degree Project in Psychology, Universitat Jaume I.
  • Gámez-Guadix, M. and Calvete, E. (2012). Filioparental violence and its association with exposure to marital violence and aggression from parents to children. Psicothema, 24 (2): 277-283.
  • Urra, J. (2006). The little dictator. When the parents are the victims. The Sphere of the Books: Madrid.

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