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Child abuse and neglect in the UK today

NSPCC research

Child abuse and neglect in the UK today September 2011


This is the first report from the NSPCC's research study of child maltreatment in the United Kingdom.

The findings provide the only UK-wide research-based indication of the prevalence and impact of child abuse and neglect.

The full report is freely available to download and provides a comprehensive analysis of the findings and the details of our research methodology. 

Below is a summary of the research and the key findings.

Download Child abuse and neglect in the UK today (PDF, 6MB)



Research background


In 1998/9 the NSPCC carried out the first UK-wide study of child maltreatment.

A random probability sample of 2,869 of young adults aged 18-24 years were interviewed about their experiences of abuse and neglect in childhood. The findings were published in 2000 as Child maltreatment in the United Kingdom.

In 2009, the NSPCC carried out a second UK-wide study of child maltreatment to give us a more up-to-date picture of child maltreatment.

A random probability sample of parents, young people and young adults in the UK were interviewed about experiences of child abuse and neglect. The sample consisted of:

  • 2,160 parents or guardians of children aged under 11 years

  • 2,275 young people aged 11-17 years with additional information from their parents or guardians

  • 1,761 young adults aged 18-24 years.


Key findings


Prevalence

Some forms of child maltreatment reported by young adults aged 18–24 years were lower in 2009 than in 1998/9:

  • childhood experiences of being beaten up or hit over and over again declined from 6.6% in 1998/9 to 4.3% in 2009

  • coerced sexual acts under age 16 declined from 6.8% in 1998/9 to 5% in 2009

  • there were no significant changes in experiences of neglect.

There is, however, still a substantial minority of children and young people who are severely maltreated and experiencing abuse at home, in school and in the community, from adults and from peers:

  • 1 in 17 (5.9%) children aged under 11 years had experienced severe maltreatment

  • 1 in 5 (18.6%) young people aged 11-17 years had experienced severe maltreatment

  • 1 in 4 (25.3%) young adults aged 18-24 had experienced severe maltreatment in childhood.


Co-occurrence of maltreatment

Children and young people who were maltreated by a parent or guardian were also more likely to experience other types of abuse from other perpetrators.

For example:

  • young people aged 11–17 years who had experienced severe maltreatment by a parent or guardian were 2.8 times more likely to also witness family violence than those who were not severely maltreated.


Impact of child maltreatment

All forms of abuse in childhood were associated with poorer mental health and elevated delinquent behaviour. 

Strong associations were found between maltreatment, sexual abuse and physical violence, and poorer emotional wellbeing, including self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

For example:

  • Young people aged 11–17 years who experienced severe maltreatment by a parent or guardian were 6.4 times more likely to have current suicide ideation and 4.6 times more likely to have self-harm thoughts than those who were not severely maltreated.

  • Young adults aged 18–24 years who experienced severe maltreatment by a parent or guardian adult were 3.9 times more likely to have current self-harming thoughts than those who were not severely maltreated.

 

Download Child abuse and neglect in the UK today (PDF, 6MB)

Buy a copy from the NSPCC


Please cite as: Radford, Lorraine, Corral, Susana, Bradley, Christine, Fisher, Helen, Bassett, Claire, Howat, Nick and Collishaw, Stephan (2011) Child abuse and neglect in the UK today. London: NSPCC. Available at: www.nspcc.org.uk/childstudy.




Further information


Statistics on child abuse and neglect
A collection of statistics from government and research arranged under child protection topics.

How safe are our children? (2013)
NSPCC report compiling the most robust and up-to-date child protection data that exists across each of the four nations in the UK.



Contact the NSPCC Information Service if you have questions about NSPCC research, child abuse and child neglect or any child protection topic