Methods: A retrospective cohort study design was used with all cases of domestic disputes/violence to which police were called between adult children and their parents, in Philadelphia, PA, in 2013 (N = 4,898). Data were drawn from forms required to be completed by police officers when responding to domestic violence calls for assistance. A series of bivariate and multivariate logistic regression models were estimated.
Results: In 6% (n = 273) of cases, the adult child offender was indicated to have a SMI, with SMI not indicated in 94% (n= 4,625) of cases. In bivariate and multivariate analyses, offenders having SMI largely failed to be predictive of incident characteristics (e.g. the occurrence of property damage, threats, physical violence, gun use, victim injured, victim frightened), suggesting that incidents of conflict responded to by police are largely similar between adult child-parent dyads in which the offender does vs. does not have SMI. In multivariate models, police observed offenders with SMI similarly to those without SMI (as cooperative, angry, threatening, etc.). After controlling for covariates, offenders with SMI were significantly less likely to be arrested than offenders without SMI. In the majority of cases in which the offender had SMI, officers advised victims on the procedure to have persons involuntarily hospitalized.
Conclusions and Implications: It is critical that social work practitioners and policymakers work to decrease conflict and improve the relationships of adult children and their parents, a pressing concern as adult children are increasingly residing with their parents, particularly those with SMI. The results of the present analysis suggest that among cases responded to by police between adult children and their parents, incidents are largely similar when offenders do vs. do not have SMI. Contrary to popular belief, offenders with SMI were not more likely than those without SMI to commit violence, injure victims, or use a firearm. However, it seems that when police assess family conflict to involve someone with SMI, they associate the conflict with a need for treatment rather than arrest and suggest involuntary hospitalization. It is imperative that advances continue to be made in developing partnerships between police and treatment programs and professionals—including social workers.