Violence in Family Life

  • Gill Gorell Barnes
Part of the Basic Texts in Counselling and Psychotherapy book series (BTCP)


Work with families where violence has been a regular component of the ongoing pattern and ‘balance’ of family life — part of the family ‘modality’ of being together — throws open questions about the degree to which the privacy of family boundaries and the maintenance of inequality and power within them should be respected by others outside the family. The Children Act 1991, by replacing ‘parental rights’ with ‘parental responsibility’, put the conduct of family life in relation to children within a legal framework and under broader public scrutiny than ever before. However, scrutiny does not in itself afford protection to vulnerable family members, and ways of effectively and lastingly changing violent patterns remains one of the most problematic concerns for a family or a therapist to face. While there is now more public questioning of what legitimately constitutes viable family life for a child and what constitutes adequate parenting, we know relatively little about how to stop violence between men and women and between adults and children, and the alternative care systems offered by the state have themselves proved open to similar forms of abusive behaviour. The degree to which abuse in childhood may carry forward into poor adult experience, and what a family therapist can do to mitigate such experience, needs to be continually debated and tested. When working with families where violent acts take place, whether to adopt therapeutic respect for family coherence or self-regulation at the cost of weaker individuals, usually the women and children, is an ongoing dilemma. One approach for therapists is to monitor the issue actively in their work, and to make it a matter of open discussion with the family.


Family Life Family Therapy Violent Behaviour Family Business Family Coherence 
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Copyright information

© Gill Gorell Barnes 1998

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  • Gill Gorell Barnes

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