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Abusive Offspring

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Abusive Parents is a very common trope. This is the Inverted Trope; when the child is abusive to the parent, physically, sexually, financially, or emotionally. While these characters can be children and will usually be an Enfant Terrible who exhibits Troubling Unchildlike Behavior, a particularly extreme example of a Bratty Teenage Daughter, or simply someone that proves Teens Are Monsters, they may be an adult. In that case, such cruelty will often fall under Elder Abuse, although the parents can also be of any age. In rare cases, it may either be an inversion of Wicked Stepmother or a mistreatment of the Good Stepmother.

This is closely related to Antagonistic Offspring, but the relationship is the direct opposite of abusive parents be it an Evil Matriarch or an Archnemesis Dad. This is a much more severe, villainous form of that trope, and it's almost impossible to have a heroic character who is abusive, while antagonism can be justified, and (as with abusers in normal life), the abuser can be Affably Evil or (more likely) Faux Affably Evil. It's in fact common for antagonism to apply to an evil parent and to be justified as a heroic characteristic. Most of the time, the parents of the abusive offspring are often too terrified to disobey their demands which results in the child/offspring to quickly be lead into a position where they're superior to their parents.

This may be motivated by hatred of the parent in question (or both of them), but that is not a requirement. In order to distinguish it from Calling the Old Man Out, it is important that this is at least shown to be a recurring trait or incident rather than just happening once. It may be that the abusive child has a Freudian Excuse relating to their own parent (who may themselves be abusive), but it's not necessary. The most sympathetic version will be acting out of revenge, determined to give the parent A Taste of Their Own Medicine.


The natural conclusion is the Self-Made Orphan, but not all who fall under that trope will also be abusive, as it's common for them to be presented as "snapping" rather than as a cumulation of past behavior.

Compare Big Brother Bully, and contrast Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas, when the mama is an exception to her son's reign of terror. Also contrast Double Standard: Violence, Child on Adult, which may also be applied to young abusive offspring. Will lead to Calling the Young Man Out if the parent has enough of the child's abusive behavior. When the offspring in question is a child, this may invoke (or be a part of) a Kids Versus Adults conflict.

No Real Life Examples, Please!



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    Comic Books 
  • In Young Justice, Harm gleefully terrorizes his adoptive parents, to the point that when he was just 11 years old, he sliced his adoptive dad's neck, barely missing his jugular. He also murdered his adoptive little sister Greta, who became the heroine Secret.
  • In X-Statix, when Arnie Lundberg discovered that he was a Reality Warper, he used his powers to take over his town and deform everyone he felt had wronged him. While he never used his powers on his single mother, he kept the threat of doing so over her head to keep her in line, and it's clear that she's terrified of him.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the Bollywood film, Baghban, Raj and Pooja provided their four sons with everything they needed, at the expense of their own desires. However, when they are forced to live with their sons, the sons force Raj and Pooja to live separately. Both parents receive a lot of abuse while staying at their sons' home. This does not include their adopted son Alok, who practically worships them.
  • Diary Of A Mad Housewife: Tina has to endure not only her husband Johnathan's emotional abuse but also that from their two daughters, who treat her just as cruelly.
  • Teased as being the case between Steven and his unseen father in The Killing of a Sacred Deer, as he describes to his son Bob that he gave his (sleeping) father a hand job when he was a kid to check that he was producing a normal amount of sperm.
  • The Lodge: They adore their mother, but Aiden and Mia psychologically torture and gaslight their stepmother-to-be, Grace, which includes Aiden peeping on her in the shower.
  • Run: A controversial aspect of the ending. Diane kidnapped and poisoned Chloe for around seventeen years so Chloe would never stop needing her. However, after Chloe manages to escape at the end, it jumps forward several years and reveals that Diane is in a prison hospital where Chloe visits her. It then ends with Chloe feeding Diane the same pills, which presumably have an equally horrific effect on her body and putting her in hospital.
  • Splice: Elsa and Clive are both abusive to their "daughter" Dren, with whom Elsa broke her own rules by using her own DNA to create her. They lock her in a barn constantly and refuse to let her socialize with others, along with being emotionally abusive, and Clive has (apparently consensual) sex with Dren, which falls under Questionable Consent given that he is essentially her stepfather. However, experiencing violent aggression as she grows older, Dren turns male and violently rapes Elsa, impregnating her.
  • The Strange Thing About the Johnsons: Isaiah is shown to be sexually abusive towards his father Sidney, although it's ultimately left ambiguous who started their "relationship".

  • The Count of Monte Cristo: Benedetto tortured his adoptive mother to death (the death part was unintentional, he got too carried away with the torture bit). During the big reveal of who his father is, he also says he doesn't care who his real mother is (said real mother faints in the crowd).
  • How much of it is in her head is left (somewhat) ambiguous, but before he kills her husband - his father - and her youngest daughter/his sister, Kevin in We Need to Talk About Kevin is abusive to his mother Eva. This includes bullying her, undermining her in front of Franklin (although this might simply be because Franklin favors Kevin and is disgusted by Eva's attitude towards him), and masturbating in front of her with the door open.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Desperate Housewives: Andrew was already starting to turn out this way towards Bree before Rex died; he kicked her when she got in the way of the TV and constantly criticising her. However, after Rex's death, he threatened to falsely accuse her of molestation and slept with her boyfriend because she wouldn't buy him a car. However, after she abandoned him at the end of Season 2 and he returned in Season 3, he became an inversion bordering on being an Extremely Protective Child.
  • Emmerdale: One storyline dealt with Ashley taking his anger out on his elderly father Sandy, bullying him and raging at him on a near-constant basis, and hitting him on at least one occasion.
  • Inspector Lynley, in the episode "Know Thine Enemy", Guy adored his father but despised his mother, who he regarded as weak, and beat up on at least one occasion.
  • On Jessica Jones (2015), Kilgrave became this to his parents after gaining his Compelling Voice.
  • Killing Eve: Villanelle's mother, Tatiana, claims she was one of these, saying that she and Villanelle's now-dead father were so terrified of Villanelle's psychopathic urges that her father took her to Moscow in a desperate attempt to stop her from hurting or killing any other members of their family. Tatiana herself is also shown to be emotionally abusive, though, and Villanelle denies that her father was scared of her, so it's highly ambiguous.
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit: "Dominance" - As if it wasn't bad enough that he raped his younger brother, Charlie is shown to be abusive and violent to his Alcoholic Parent, beating his father up and generally terrorizing him.
  • Lie to Me: In "Beat the Devil", Martin Walker, a serial killer who killed his sister and murdered multiple other women at his college by water torturing them and burying them alive, is shown despite being extremely polite to terrify his mother.
  • Silent Witness: The twist of "Snipers Nest" is revealing that sixteen-year-old Craig Cross abuses his mother rather than the other way around. He regularly verbally abuses and threatens his weak-willed alcoholic mother (who was also abused by Craig's father), and eventually ended up teaming up with the deranged Adrian Turner to kill his father (though it was in retaliation for his father abusing him).
  • Supernanny: Numerous episodes shows the parents being afraid of their own children as their tantrums and bad behavior worsens; fortunately, Jo always manages to set things right when she shows up.
  • True Detective: The Big Bad of Season 1, Errol Childress is shown to keep his father (who also abused him, sexually tortured him along with the Yellow King cult, and badly burned him) trapped on a bed, where he is now emaciated, tortured, and unable to speak.
  • Implied to be part of Claire Slater's Fate Worse than Death at the end of Series 1 of Unforgotten. She has Alzheimer's and is trapped at the mercy of her youngest son Matthew, who is implied to know that she murdered Jimmy and several of his father's (male) lovers even though she can't be prosecuted for it and is determined to psychologically torture her in payback.
  • Violent Child, Desperate Parents follows a series of parents pushed to the brink by their (often physically) abusive children; one story even has a boy at risked of getting locked up months before turning ten because of the amount of assault towards his single dad.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology: Before the days of the Olympians, Ouranos abused Gaia, who gave birth to him through no male. When she had her children (and his, they were married as well), he would throw the ugly ones into hell. When Kronos defeated him, Gaia was so overjoyed the Earth became fertile for many years to come.

    Video Games 
  • Tekken: Already infamous for being one of the most iconic Abusive Parents in media, Heihachi Mishima also extends his abuse to his own father, Jinpachi, as well. In the backstory of Tekken 5, Heihachi seals his father under the Hon-Maru, causing him to starve to death and get possessed by a vengeful spirit. Things don't get any better in Heihachi's ending in the game, where Heihachi straps his father, alongside his son Kazuya and grandson Jin Kazama, to the tip of a rocket and has the three of them launched into outer space while Heihachi himself looks from a distance and laughs at their fate.

    Visual Novels 

  • El Goonish Shive: Damian killed his biological father after taking over the rogue Project Lycanthrope that was responsible for his birth.

    Web Original 
  • 8-year-old Adam to his mother during the sixth season of Arby 'n' the Chief. That is until he gets hauled off to juvie. All as heard on his mic.
  • Caillou the Grown Up: Caillou subjects his parents to emotional and sometimes physical abuse in order to get his way.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: Dick Reynolds's son beats his father with his abnormally large right hand.
  • Arcane: Jinx becomes this to her adoptive father Silco after she finds out he hid Vi's survival, stabbing in the face multiple times with a needle. She later kidnaps him, ties him up, and gags him after misunderstanding his conversation with Vander's statue.
  • In one episode of The Boondocks, Robert comes across a small white boy having a tantrum in the supermarket while directing an amount of verbal abuse at his mother that would give even Eric Cartman pause. Robert then encourages the mother to follow in his footsteps, handing her his signature belt.
  • DuckTales (2017): Doofus Drake degrades his parents into acting more like his butler and maid rather than his own parents and makes them too scared of his wrath to stand up for themselves until B.O.Y.D. becomes their son.
  • The Fairly OddParents: It's shown that Vicky's cruelty extends to her own parents, considering they're both absolutely terrified of her.
  • Gravity Falls: Gideon is shown to verbally torment both his parents. His mother can barely function and is shown uttering a Madness Mantra, while it's hinted that his father joined the Society of the Blind Eye to forget about what Gideon does to him.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: As she is with everyone else, Mandy is even rude and demanding towards her own parents, who are egregiously terrified of her. However she does care for them and in "Keeper of the Reaper" she's actually dumbstruck to see them admit their fear of her, implying that while she can be cold she doesn't actually mean to intimidate them.
  • Moral Orel: In the episode "Dumb," town bully Joe Secondopinionson finds out that his mother (Nurse Bendy) is alive, after believing his whole life that she died from childbirth. When an enraged Joe goes home and confronts his elderly, Alzheimer's-stricken father (who is implied to have impregnated Nurse Bendy when she was just thirteen) about what he's learned, he ends up beating his dad to a pulp as his older half-sister listens on in the other room.
  • The Simpsons:
    • The minor recurring character Gavin is a Spoiled Brat who treats his mother like dirt, to the point of yelling at her to shut up.
    • Homer Simpson combines this with Elder Abuse. He doesn't hate his father outright (and they do share the occasional sentimental moment), but he's generally characterized as deliberately neglectful and dismissive of Abe's feelings and well-being (contrast with how he treats his children, where he's also neglectful and dismissive, but more out of ineptitude and horrible impulse control). Most times we flashback to Homer's childhood shows that Abe was a pretty piss poor parent himself, so it's heavily implied Homer is negligent as a form of payback.
      Homer: (to Bart) ...Now I can see you need your dad more than ever.
      Abe: And Homer, I can see you need me more than ever.
      Homer: Get back in the garage, old man!
      Abe: But there's spiders in the boxes...!
      Homer: Stay out of my boxes!
  • South Park: Eric Cartman is generally bossy with his mother, giving orders and even insulting her often.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: "The Bully" sees Spongebob antagonized by Flats the Flounder, who for no apparent reason wants to kick his butt. At one point, Spongebob tries to appeal to Flats's father for help, only for it to turn out that he's also terrified of Flats, as he's apparently kicked his butt in the past.
    Flats: Dad, what are you doing?
    Flats' dad: Uh, nothing, son.
    Flats: What did I tell you about talking to strangers?
    Flats' dad: Now he's gonna kick my butt!