I ran across an article recently about a couple who were afraid of their sixteen year old daughter.
Ann and Mike describe their existence as parents to 16-year-old Kristi as a living nightmare.
“I’m afraid of Kristi when she gets violent,” says Ann, pointing out that Kristi has bashed doors, thrown objects, has spit on her and even threatened to kill her.
Mike reports, “We found one of our big butcher knives under Kristi’s mattress.”
It reminded me of a situation I confronted with a patient several years ago. The patient I had was trying to reconnect with a daughter she had given up for adoption at birth. The adoptive mother could not control this child and so allowed the child to return to her birth mother’s custody.
The girl was on “good behavior” for several weeks and things seemed to be working. When the girl started getting into trouble and her birth mother set some rules, all hail broke loose and the girl beat up her mother pretty badly, at which time the law got involved. The girl was sent back by the court to live with her birth mother. Things continued to go down hill until eventually, the girl bit her mother so badly that I actually had to put some stitches to close some of the wounds, and because of oral bacteria it is not normal procedure to sew up a human bite, so I left an area open to drain. Then I called the police to report the child’s behavior…then I called child protective services.
The birth mother was afraid to go to sleep or be in the house with the girl so I told her to go somewhere else until the law could pick up the girl. I called and talked to the law who said they could not pick up the girl without a warrant, and child protective services said if the mother did not go back home they would swear out a warrant for HER for “child abandonment”–whew! What to do”? Of course this was on a Friday afternoon, so I called the judge himself, who really was not supposed to get information about this situation outside of a court room, but I did let him know what the situation was.
Then I directed the birth mother to go home, but to sleep in her locked car. The next day, the law finally picked up the teenager, and I lost contact after that.
Uncontrollable anger may be more prevalent in teens than once thought, suggests a study finding that nearly two-thirds of U.S. adolescents have experienced an anger attack at some point in their lives.
These fits of rage involved violent threats, destruction of property or actual violence toward others. None could be accounted for by another mental disorder, and between 6 percent and nearly 8 percent of these teens would meet criteria for so-called intermittent explosive disorder (IED), a diagnosis given to people who have uncontrollable, aggressive outbursts.
Back when I worked in an inpatient juvenile psychological unit I also saw cases where the parents were physically afraid of their offspring who were violent. This is not a “rare” event unfortunately. The law doesn’t seem to recognize that a parent of an adolescent who is out of control, (for any reason) can control them and protect themselves.
Another instance that I recall was a mother whose 16 yr old son who was bi-polar and refused to take his medication, would not go to school, and threatened his mother physically, was told by child services to “make him take his medication.” Like she could force it down his throat?
It seems to me that neither the law nor child protective services takes into account children that are not safe to leave in a home. Adam Lanza who killed his mother and killed dozens of children is a perfect example, only his mother would not “give up” on Adam, and paid for it with her life.
Bi-polar and other disorders such as psychopathy that start showing up in adolescence many times are the problem, and few if any parents are equipped to handle it. Even though I should have been equipped to handle it and recognize what was going on, I let my emotions get in the way of handling the situation correctly.
Many crimes are committed by people with personality disorders, in fact 80% of all violent crimes are committed by personality disordered individuals, but people who are bi-polar also tend to be more criminal when they are on a manic high.
What’s the answer? I don’t know in specific cases, but over all I do think that both the law, psychological personnel and child services should be more logical in recognizing situations where a child is the danger to the parents.