Emotional abuse Facts and statistics

We don't know exactly how many children experience emotional abuse. But official statistics tell us how many children have been identified as being at risk of harm from emotional abuse. Research studies give us a better picture of children’s experiences. 

1 in 14 children have experienced emotional abuse by a parent or guardian. 

Explanation: Figures based on findings from 11-17 year olds. 6.8% said they had experienced emotional abuse by a parent or guardian. Emotional abuse in the survey included acts such as being scared or made to feel really bad because of name-calling, saying mean things or saying the child was unwanted; breaking or ruining the child’s things; and threatening the child with violence (see p. 45).

For the source of these figures please see our summary of child protection register and plan statistics in the UK (PDF).

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Nearly 20,000 children were identified as needing protection from emotional abuse last year

Explanation: There were 19,953 children in the UK on child protection registers or the subject of child protection plans under the category of emotional abuse on 31 March 2016 (or 31 July 2016 in Scotland). This equates to 34% of all the children on child protection registers or the subject of child protection plans. This is based on figures from each UK nation.

These figures represent children identified and assessed as being at ongoing risk of significant harm from emotional abuse.

Children on a child protection register or subject to a child protection plan due to emotional abuse by nation:

  • England: 17,770
  • Northern Ireland: 170
  • Scotland: 973
  • Wales: 1,040

See also Indicator 14 in How safe are our children? 2017 and our summaries of child protection register and plan statistics for England (PDF), Northern Ireland (PDF), Scotland (PDF) and Wales (PDF).

Find out more about the child protection system in the UK.

illustration of umbrella

Emotional abuse is the 2nd most common reason for children needing protection from abuse in the UK

Explanation: There were 19,953 children in the UK on child protection registers or the subject of child protection plans under the category of emotional abuse on 31 March 2016 (or 31 July 2016 in Scotland). This equates to 34% of all the children on child protection registers or the subject of child protection plans. This is based on figures from each UK nation.

These figures represent children identified and assessed as being at ongoing risk of significant harm from emotional abuse.

Children on a child protection register or subject to a child protection plan due to emotional abuse by nation:

  • England: 17,770
  • Northern Ireland: 170
  • Scotland: 973
  • Wales: 1,040

See also Indicator 14 in How safe are our children? 2017 and our summaries of child protection register and plan statistics for England (PDF)Northern Ireland (PDF)Scotland (PDF) and Wales (PDF).

Find out more about the child protection system in the UK.

17% of contacts to the NSPCC’s helpline last year were concerns about emotional abuse

Explanation: Of the NSPCC’s helpline 66,000 contacts in 2016/17, 59,349 resulted in advice or a new referral (the remainder are referral updates).

Of the 59,349 contacts, 10,009 (17%) were about emotional abuse. The reason for contacting is not recorded for referral updates. 

See also Indicator 8 in How safe are our children? 2017.

The NSPCC’s helpline responded to over 10,000 contacts about emotional abuse in 2016/17

ExplanationThe NSPCC’s helpline responded to 10,009 contacts related to concerns about emotional abuse in 2016/17.

See also Indicator 8 in How safe are our children? 2017.

View the trend graph for Counselling sessions with abuse as the primary concern (PNG).

There were over 3,000 Childline counselling sessions about emotional abuse in 2016/17

Explanation: There were 3,220 counselling sessions with children and young people about emotional abuse in 2016/17.

See also Indicator 7 in How safe are our children? 2017.

View trend graph Counselling sessions with abuse as primary concern

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