Ph.D. Student Sofia Oviedo: Spotlighting Adolescent-to-Parent Abuse


Born and raised in Brooklyn.

Research interests:

The impact of adolescent-to-parent abuse on parents and youth.

Currently teaching:

Social Work Research I to master’s-level social work students.

Why she chose to study at the GC:

After several years of working as a fundraiser for various nonprofit organizations, I became interested in conducting evaluation research to improve human service delivery. As I explored possible doctoral programs in the city, I learned about the GC's Social Welfare Ph.D. Program and found that it was a good fit for what I hoped to learn.

Research project:

With support from the GC’s Early Research Initiative, I had the opportunity to conduct a summer pilot study designed to examine the experiences of parents and youth participating in the King County Step-Up program, the only intervention of its kind in the U.S. designed to address adolescent violence and abuse toward parents in the home. For three weeks I conducted observations of program activities, met with staff, reviewed intake assessments, and conducted interviews with both parents and youth.
Adolescent-to-parent abuse is a form of family abuse that has remained hidden for a very long time, and has not garnered the attention as a critical social problem affecting our families today.

Researchers in the U.K., Australia, Canada, and other countries have begun to take a deeper look at this issue, but in the U.S. the issue has not yet gained traction.

This of course can be due to the complexity of the issue itself and the improbability for many to believe or accept that young people can exert control, abuse, and be violent towards their parents.
From my experience interviewing parents through the Step-Up program, I learned that adolescent-to-parent abuse cuts across families from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds: from the poor to the middle class and to the wealthy, and from two-parent families to single-parent households.

Through my study I want to bring forth the voices of parents who have been silent because of the shame, guilt, fear, and belief that they are alone in this. My hope is to bring greater awareness to this social problem so that more resources, like interventions such as the Step-Up Program, can be made available to more families.

What led her to explore this subject:

My interest in researching adolescent-to-parent abuse and the experiences of parents living through this stems from my own personal experience. For me, living through this experience with my son has been one of the most difficult of my life, as I dealt with many difficult feelings and encountered such a lack of awareness and services to address this problem.

My hope is to bring to light this serious problem through my story, and the stories of other families who are also affected, to bring greater awareness and advance further research and the development of interventions.

Career goals:

My goals are to deepen my research in the area of adolescent-to-parent abuse, specifically looking at the relationship dynamics between parents and children, how this form of family abuse evolves, and how parents and youth perceive their identity and relationship within this family dynamic.

I would also really like to explore the relationship dynamic between mothers victimized by their sons, particularly looking at the roles of gender and power — how abuse affects the mother’s view/identity of herself as a mother and as a parental authority, especially for single mothers raising young men.
In addition to conducting research, I hope to develop an advocacy campaign to raise awareness of the need for targeted services for families among child welfare and juvenile justice agencies, social service providers, schools, and family courts, and to promote the development of interventions like the Step-Up program in more communities.

Submitted on: OCT 4, 2016

Category: General GC News | Social Welfare | Student News