The social ecology of adolescent-initiated parent abuse: A review of the literature

Jun Sung Hong, Michael J. Kral, Dorothy L. Espelage, Paula Allen-Meares

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


This article provides an ecological framework for understanding adolescentinitiated parent abuse. We review research on adolescent-initiated parent abuse, identifying sociodemographic characteristics of perpetrators and victims (e.g., gender, age, race/ ethnicity, and socioeconomic status [SES]). Bronfenbrenner's [1] ecological systems theory is applied, which examines the risk and protective factors for adolescent-initiated parent abuse within micro- (maltreatment, domestic violence, parenting behavior and disciplinary strategies), meso- (peer influence), exo- (media influence), macro- (gender role socialization), and chronosystem (change in family structure) levels. Findings from our review suggest that older and White children are significantly more likely to abuse their parents. Females are selective in the target of their aggression, while males target family members in general. Mothers are significantly more likely to be abused than fathers. However, researchers also report variations in the association between SES and parent abuse. Domestic violence and child maltreatment are risk factors, while findings on parenting behavior and disciplinary strategies are mixed. Peer influence, exposure to media violence, gender role socialization, and change in family structure can potentially increase the risk of parent abuse. Practice and research implications are also discussed. An ecological systems framework allows for an examination of how various contexts interact and influence parent abuse behavior, and can provide needed directions for further research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-454
Number of pages24
JournalChild Psychiatry and Human Development
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Adolescents
  • Aggression
  • Ecological model
  • Parent abuse
  • Violence


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