Prevalence and incidence of child abuse and neglect
Key child protection statistics
- Approximately 50,500 children in the UK are known to be at risk of abuse right now.
- One in four young adults (25.3%) were severely maltreated during childhood.
We do not know exactly how many children in the UK have been abused.
The UK does not publish statistics on the number of substantiated child abuse cases recorded every year (this would be the incidence of child abuse).
The number of children on child protection registers or the subject of child protection plans tells us how many children are known to be at risk of abuse right now.
This is not the same as knowing how many children have been abused.
Research indicates that abuse and neglect are both under-reported and under-recorded.
Below are the most recent figures.
For a breakdown by category of abuse and for the source of these figures please visit our page on child protection register statistics.
Approximately 50,500 children in the UK are known to be at risk of abuse right now.
Latest available figures show that there were 50,552 children on child protection registers or the subject of child protection plans in the UK as at 31 March 2011 (or 31 July 2011 in Scotland):
Northern Ireland: 2,571
Research studies tell us the proportion of children who suffer abuse (this is known as the prevalence of child abuse).Child abuse and neglect in the UK today
(Radford et al, 2011) is a major piece of NSPCC research which interviewed 1,761 young adults aged 18-24 years; 2,275 children aged 11-17 years and 2,160 parents of children aged under 11.
Below are some key findings.Severe maltreatment
- One in four young adults (25.3%) had been severely maltreated during childhood.
- Around one in five (18.6%) children aged 11-17 have been severely maltreated.
- One in seven young adults (14.5%) had been severely maltreated by a parent or guardian during childhood.
- More than one in eight children aged 11-17 (13.4%) have experienced severe maltreatment by a parent or guardian.
- Nearly a quarter of young adults (24.1%) experienced sexual abuse (including contact and non-contact) by an adult or by a peer during childhood.
- One in six children aged 11-17 (16.5%) have experienced sexual abuse.
- Almost one in 10 children aged 11-17 (9.4%) have experienced sexual abuse in the past year. Teenage girls aged between 15 and 17 years reported the highest past year rates of sexual abuse.
See our sexual abuse statistics pages
for more information.Physical violence
- One in nine young adults (11.5%) had experienced severe physical violence during childhood at the hands of an adult.
- One in 14 children aged 11-17 (6.9%) have experienced severe physical violence at the hands of an adult.
See our physical abuse statistics pages
for more information.Neglect
- Neglect was the most prevalent type of maltreatment in the family for all age groups.
- One in six young adults (16%) had been neglected at some point in their childhoods and nearly one in ten (9%) had experienced severe neglect.
- One in seven children aged 11-17 (13.3%) have been neglected. Almost one in ten (9.8%) have experienced severe neglect.
See our neglect statistics pages
for more information.Emotional abuse
- One in 14 young adults (6.9%) experienced emotional abuse during childhood.
- One in 14 children aged 11-17 (6.8%) have experienced emotional abuse.
Experiencing domestic abuse
- Nearly one in four young adults (23.7%) were exposed to domestic violence between adults in their homes during childhood.
- Just under one in five children aged 11-17 (17.5%) have experienced domestic violence between adults in their homes.
See our domestic abuse statistics pages
for more information.Disclosure
From: 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.
- More than one in five children aged 11-17 (22.9%) who were physically hurt by a parent or guardian did not tell anyone else about it.
- More than one in three children aged 11-17 (34%) who experienced contact sexual abuse by an adult did not tell anyone else about it.
- Four out of five children aged 11-17 (82.7%) who experienced contact sexual abuse from a peer did not tell anyone else about it.
How to find, understand and use statistics about child abuse
A brief introduction to child abuse statistics.Comparing child abuse statistics over time and between countries
Explains the issues around looking for trends in statistics over time, within the UK and internationally.