Research looks at grandchildren who are violent toward their grandparent carers

  • Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Roehampton's Dr Amanda Holt leads research into an overlooked dynamic in family violence: when grandparents who have full-time care of their grandchildren are victims of a grandchild's aggression.  

The research project ‘Violence against grandparents in a kinship care context’ was funded by the British Academy/Leverhulme Trust and was based in the University of Roehampton, London. The research project was undertaken by Dr. Amanda Holt and Dr. Jenny Birchall.

This is the first qualitative research project in the UK to explore the issue of violence against grandparents. While there is an important and well-developed body of literature on some particular relationship dynamics in family violence, such as intimate partner violence (IPV) and child abuse, and an emerging research base on others, such as ‘child to parent violence’ (CPV), there is an absence of knowledge about violence towards grandparents. This absence prevents the development of a coherent understanding of the ways in which violence in families can take shape at different stages throughout the life course, and how these types of family violence differ. It also contributes to a professional deficit, as practitioners have no guidance about how to respond effectively and no knowledge base on which to build such guidance. The importance of this issue is underscored by findings from a recent online of kinship carers, which reported a lack of support offered to family members who take on the full-time care for a child, who has often experienced extreme trauma (Grandparents Plus, 2019). In 2019, a cross-party Parliamentary Taskforce was set up to highlight the importance of kinship care and it has recently called for responses to its national consultation on kinship care. Our project aims to raise awareness of the issue and develop recommendations for effective policy and practice to help support kinship care families.

The Roehampton website will soon share findings from the project and promotes the forthcoming findings launch, to be held at the University of Roehampton on Thursday 28 May 2020.

Findings Launch

While the findings launch is particularly focused towards practitioners and policymakers, it is open to everyone. Please register to secure a place. Please note that the event will be audio-recorded to produce a podcast of the event, which will be available on this website. If you wish your voice to be excluded from the podcast, please let the event organiser know after the event.

Findings launch day schedule

• 11.30-12.00 Registration and refreshments
• 12.00-12.10 Welcome: Launch day open
• 12.10-12.30 Introduction to the project – background, context, methods
• 12.30-13.15 Key Findings 1
• 13.15-14.00 Lunch
• 14.00-15.00 Key Findings 2
• 15.15-16.30 Roundtable: Recommendations & Implications for Policy and Practice
• 16.30 Closing Remarks/Wine reception

About the project

The research project took place between June 2018 and February 2020 and had three key aims:
1. To advance a developmental and sociological understanding of the experiences, impacts and responses of grandparents who are experiencing violent and/or abusive behaviour from their grandchildren.

2. To produce key recommendations for policy makers and practitioners to respond more effectively to cases of violence and abuse towards grandchildren.

3. To develop understanding of appropriate methodological approaches for researching family violence with older people.

The project involved 27 qualitative interviews with grandparents who were experiencing violent or aggressive behaviour from their grandchild/ren. The interviews took place face-to-face or over Skype/telephone and included grandparents from across England, Wales and Scotland. Participants were asked about their experiences of the violence, how they managed it, and where they sought help from. The project also interviewed a range of practitioners whose work intersects with violence against grandparents to explore their perspectives on the problem - they included workers from parenting and family support, family law, domestic violence support, youth offending services, education and the police. The interviews were subject to thematic analysis: key findings were identified and key recommendations were made.

Project Advisory Group

We are grateful to the research project advisory group for giving us their time and expertise:

• Sharon Stratton – Policing Standards Manager, College of Policing
• Jo Sharpen – Policy Manager, Against Violence and Abuse
• Maggie Evans – Director, Action on Elder Abuse (England)

Downloads (files uploaded when ready)

• Findings report: Summary (tbc)
• Podcast of the launch event
• Pre-print outputs

Metrics: Webpage visitor counter and number of downloads/listens for research files and podcast


For further information about the project, please contact Dr. Amanda Holt (

Useful support links

If you are a grandparent experiencing violent and/or abusive behaviour, the organisations below can offer support and advice.

Family Lives

Family Lives supports all families who are experiencing challenges in their family relationships, including concerns about violence and abuse. The helpline offers a free and confidential support service, and the website offers information, an online forum and links to other support services.
National helpline number: 0808 800 2222 (freephone)

Action on Elder Abuse
Action on Elder Abuse offers a free and confidential helpline for anyone experiencing or witnessing abusive behaviour towards older people. They also offer an elder abuse recovery service in some local areas.
National helpline number: 080 8808 8141 (freephone)

Women’s Aid
Women’s Aid supports women who are experiencing abuse from family members. They offer range of online support services and the website offers information and links to other local support services.

National Domestic Abuse helpline
You can call this free, 24 hour helpline (run by Refuge) on: 0808 2000 247

Men’s Advice Line
Men’s Advice Line supports men who are experiencing abuse from family members. They offer a free and confidential helpline and the website offers information and an weekly online webchat.
National helpline number: 0808 801 0327 (free from landlines and most mobiles)

Grandparents Plus
Grandparents Plus supports kinships carers - including grandparents and other relatives raising children who aren’t able to live with their parents. They offer a specialist advice service as well as local support groups and an online network.
National helpline number: 0300 123 7015