How do I right believable abusive characters/character abuse?

Hey guys Alright - so I'm a writer. I'm working on this one story at the moment and one of the main characters is a teenage boy in foster care. It's not a particularly good situation. The foster parents are often aggravated about something, they're always fighting and though they might have... show more Hey guys

Alright - so I'm a writer. I'm working on this one story at the moment and one of the main characters is a teenage boy in foster care.

It's not a particularly good situation. The foster parents are often aggravated about something, they're always fighting and though they might have had their hearts in the right place when they started, the kids they take in have are quickly becoming yet another 'problem' in their lives.
To say the least - it's a situation just waiting to explode.

My problem though - I don't want to write the foster parents as your archetypal 2D storybook villains. I want to do more than just write them down and go 'bad guys! These two - baaad people! Hate them! Do you hear me?! Hate 'em'.

I do of course want them to be the villains, and I want them to be hated, but I also want their characters to have some depth to them.

I guess my question is - how do I write an unpleasant character, who at the end of the story - becomes a physically abusive character in a way that is believable? What are your suggestions

And whilst I have got you, I was just wondering what degree of abuse do you think a character of about 16/17 could receive from their foster parents before you would be unable to suspend your disbelief. I know some horrible things happen in real life to kids in this situation. I'm just wondering whether there is a point (in a story) where you (the reader) will just throw up your hands and say 'sorry, this is getting ridiculous. I'm going to stop reading now'.
Update: 'Write' How do I 'write' abusive characters...sorry about that, I'm just going to go over to that corner and hang my head in shame
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