Domestic abuse Facts and statistics

There are no official statistics on the number of children who live with domestic abuse. But there are a lot of research studies that tell us about children’s experience of living with violence.

Around 1 in 5 children have been exposed to domestic abuse.

Explanation: Figures based on findings from 11-17 year olds. 17.5% said they had been exposed to domestic abuse between adults in their home (see p. 47).


Domestic abuse is a factor in over half of serious case reviews

Explanation: Based on analysis of 175 serious case reviews undertaken in England from 2011-2014. Domestic abuse was a risk factor in 54% of cases.

Case reviews are commissioned when a child dies, or is seriously injured, as a result of abuse or neglect.

Similar data is available for Northern Ireland and Scotland:

The definition of domestic violence in England and Wales was expanded in March 2013 to include victims aged 16 and 17 years old. It also now includes controlling behaviour and coercive behaviour.

Explanation: Coercive behaviour is: an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim. It includes ‘honour’ based violence, female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage, and is clear that victims are not confined to one gender or ethnic group.

A third of children witnessing domestic violence also experienced another form of abuse.

Explanation: NSPCC research on child maltreatment (Radford, L. et al., 2011) showed that more than 34%t of under 18s who had lived with domestic violence had themselves been abused or neglected by a parent or guardian. This figure isn’t in the published report but is based on additional analysis of the data.

1 in 5 teenagers have been physically abused by their boyfriends or girlfriends.

Explanation: Survey of 1,353 young people aged 13-17 in England, Scotland and Wales. 21% of young people (25% of girls and 18% of boys) said they had been physically abused by their partners. See Barter et al (2009) Table 3 p44. The study found that both boys and girls experienced physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse at the hands of their boyfriends or girlfriends.

130,000 children live in households with high-risk domestic abuse.

Explanation: No hard data is available on the number of children who are living with high risk domestic abuse.

Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse (CAADA) estimate there are 100,000 victims living with high risk domestic abuse (where there is a significant risk of harm or death).

CAADA figures show that 66% of these victims have children. The average number of children each victim has is 2. This results in a total estimated figure of 132,000 children living with high risk domestic abuse.

Children exposed to domestic violence are more likely to have behavioural and emotional problems.

Explanation: A review of the evidence by Humphreys (2006) found that children who are exposed to the domestic abuse of a parent often have greater behavioural and emotional problems compared to other children. This included both internal problems (such as depression and anxiety) and external problems (such as aggression or anti-social behaviour).

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