While the vast majority of domestic violence cases occur between spouses, domestic partners, or dating partners, there’s an often-overlooked version of domestic abuse that can be particularly harmful: when adult children become physically violent toward their parents. This type of domestic violence often falls into the category of “elder abuse” under California law, but it can also be classified as regular domestic violence, in part because the legal definition of “domestic violence” in California includes not just abuse between spouses and intimate partners, but also abuse between certain family members who live together. Let’s take a closer look at this troubling form of domestic violence to see what we can learn.
A Spike in Cases
According to research, approximately one million older adults are victims of domestic violence each year—and in about forty percent of those cases, the abuser is an adult child of the victim. During the recent quarantines of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, these numbers likely rose significantly as many grown children came home to shelter in place. One study estimates that incidents of abuse toward older people increased by as much as 84 percent during the pandemic–meaning that approximately 1 in 5 older people suffered some type of abuse during this time. Not all of these incidents were perpetrated by adult children, but if the normal percentage (40 percent) holds steady, it still amounts to a staggering number of adult children committing domestic violence against the parents who were attempting to shelter them.