Parental abuse is real

Parental abuse is an under-reported reality. Parental abuse is when people act beyond normal family conflicts by being verbally, emotionally or physically aggressive towards their parents, as an attempt to control or bully parents.

As much as incidents of parental abuse are common, parents do not usually talk about it openly because they either feel embarrassed, scared or even protective towards their abusive children. Below are some examples of the lives of abused parents:

Case 1- Kedibonye*is the mother of a 16 year old boy, named Boiki*. Boiki’s parents divorced when he was eight-years- old and his mother was given primary custody of the child. His father has since married another woman and has two other children with her, while his mother got married to another man, with whom she has a four year old son. Boiki’s father usually makes arrangements to take Boiki and his half siblings out for dinner whenever they miss each other. Although his father has never stopped supporting him financially, Boiki cannot help envying the day to day lifestyle his two younger half-siblings have with their father. His father is evidently more financially stable than his mother and her current husband.

Kedibonye is constantly verbally abused by Boiki, who looks down upon her because he perceives her as somebody who has failed him by being unable to keep his “wealthy father”. On the contrary, Boiki worships the ground his father walks on. Boiki’s attitude towards his parents is even projected in the way he treats his teachers. He shows a lot more respect for male teachers than he does with female teachers.



Boiki* is a typical example of a person who abuses his mother. Unfortunately, it seems that mothers, especially single mothers, experience abuse from their adolescent boys, more than fathers. Generally boys become more materialistic than girls as they grow older, because they become more impressed by expensive gadgets than girls. Boiki does not seem to appreciate the valuable little things that his mother does for him on a daily basis, hence he inflicts verbal and emotional abuse on his mother. Boiki’s father is also aware that he is emotionally abusive towards his mother but turns a blind eye because friction between the two parents still exists. He is not aware that it is in Boiki’s best interest to encourage him to love and appreciate his mother.

Case 2- Mmamotse* is a 92-year-old woman who lives with Nnaniki*, her 35 year old grand- daughter at their village home. Like many other people her age, Mmamotse has dementia, a condition in which people tend to gradually lose their brain cells and one of the results is to become acutely forgetful. Mmamotse is also a frequent sleep walker. Nnaniki is ignorant as well as physically and emotionally abusive on her grandmother. She often hits her with a stick after every sleep walk because she perceives her grandmother’s sleep walking as a sign of evil works. She calls her derogatory names such as “moloi”.



Nnaniki*, out of ignorance, believes her grandmother, Mmamotse*, chooses to sleep walk because she wants to harm other people. This is one of the reasons why it was common for the oldest women in rural communities globally, to be regarded as witches because of their sleep walking behaviour. This myth associated with sleep walking has not completely gone away, even in this day and age, and some of them suffer at the hands of some ignorant people who are supposed to be caretakers.


Common reasons why people abuse their parents

Even though there are more reported cases of abused mothers, it does not mean fathers are completely free from parental abuse. Below are some of the common reasons why people abuse their parents;

Early exposure to violence between parents. When children get exposed to violence between parents from an early age, they learn to act out their anger, without using any self-control. Early exposure to violence also denies children an opportunity to learn to manage stress, become patient or cooperate with other people. Instead, they develop a mentality that their demands must always be met with a sense of urgency. With time they often learn to see their mothers as easier targets of violence.Substance abuse can be trigger to parental abuse as people struggling with illicit substances can be more emotional and have a decreased level of inhibition, making them prone to lash out at their parents.

Other mental disorders, such as conduct disorder, also often makes people abuse other people including their own parents

Cultural myths associated with the way elderly people behave for example, sleepwalking, can make them appear to be ‘evil’ and as ‘witches’.

This can be a reason for people to abuse their parents due to the fear of them becoming ‘witches’ or being involved with ‘witchcraft’.

* not their real names

Victoria Seiketso Sethibe

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