generation gap
the mother

Jo, 34, is a working mother with two sons. Sixteen months ago Lawrence, 15, decided to leave her and his brother and go and live with his father

Lawrence and Bruce never got on. I'd take them out and they'd get into public slanging matches or brawl like two-year-olds fighting over a toy. There were some really vicious fights. One day, Bruce kicked in the glass panel in the front door. At that point, I gave up my job because I couldn't cope with coming home from work to that sort of thing.

In the past, it was usually Lawrence who persecuted Bruce, but now Bruce seems to start most of it when Lawrence visits. Almost as soon as Lawrence is through the door, he engineers a fight where he can run off and shut his bedroom door and make it look like he's still the victim. He does it to extricate himself from the situation and because he thinks I'd rather have time with Lawrence. That makes me very sad.

I spend a lot of time negotiating between them, trying to coax Bruce out of his room so we can try to do things together. Often, the only way to get any peace is to take them to the cinema. I even bought a computer because it's about the one thing all three of us can share.

Lawrence can be very aggravating, but I feel Bruce is not making an effort to meet him halfway. Bruce was glad to see him go, and sees Lawrence as a disruption to his otherwise peaceful existence. I wish he could take a fresh look at the situation. The problem is Bruce is very sensitive. These fights are water off a duck's back to Lawrence, but Bruce takes it all to heart.

I fought with my brothers and sisters when I was young, but we all get on well now. I hope that will happen with Lawrence and Bruce, but I suppose my main motive for wanting the two of them to get on better is that it would make life much simpler for me. It's so hard trying to rebuild my relationship with Lawrence when I feel it causes such disruption for Bruce. It would be so much easier if we could all settle in the lounge and have a chat and a meal together without it rapidly becoming a battleground.

the son

Bruce, aged 12, shares a flat with his mother in Brighton

When Mum says Lawrence is coming round, I dread it. I know we'll argue. We've always fought over anything and everything - there doesn't have to be a reason. Often, it's about absolutely nothing. He starts poking me or putting his face up close or something else that winds me up. I'll try to ignore it for a while or sort it out calmly, but he carries it on and I get annoyed. I don't think he always does it deliberately; it's just the way he is. Sometimes he just gets bored and aggravates me as something to do.

Sometimes it's me who starts it. Things will be okay for a few minutes and then everything we do annoys each other, even if we're both trying not to. Sometimes I hit him and sometimes he hits me. I'll hit him hard, but he really wallops me. I don't want to fight. I don't enjoy it and I don't want to hurt him.

When we fight, Mum shouts and separates us. I feel even more angry then, because it's my space and I've got the right to be there, but Lawrence comes round and acts like it's his home and I feel pushed out.

Mum and Lawrence have a better relationship than before. That doesn't make me uncomfortable - it's up to them and they can do what they like. It's just I don't feel like being part of it, or rather, I'd like to be part of it but I feel I can't because we always end up fighting. I feel I have to leave them to get on together, so I go and do other things or just don't join in the conversation. I suppose that's why I shut myself out from the beginning, so I don't get shut out later. An argument gives me a reason to leave.

Life is a lot easier now Lawrence has gone. I can do or watch what I like, but when he comes round, that stops. But I do miss him a bit. I suppose I do love him in a way. After all, he is my brother.