Physical abuse Facts and statistics

We do not know exactly how many children are physically abused. But official statistics, research studies and what children tell us, give us a good idea about the abuse they are experiencing.

1 in 14 children have been physically abused

Explanation: Figures based on findings from 11-17 year olds. 6.9% said that they had experienced severe physical abuse (see p.8)

6.9% also said they had experienced physical violence at the hands of a parent or guardian (3.7% said severe physical violence). The definition of physical violence includes: being beaten, kicked, hit or physically hurt by a parent or guardian, or physically attacked with or without a weapon but not including “smacking” (see p. 44).

See also Indicator 6 in How safe are our children? 2017.

19% of contacts to the NSPCC’s helpline in 2017/18 were concerns about physical abuse

Explanation: In 2017/18, the NSPCC helpline received 65,067 contacts that resulted in advice, a referral or an update to an existing referral.

Of the 65,067 contacts, 12,215 (19%) were about physical abuse. 

Disabled children are more likely to be abused than non-disabled children

Explanation: Jones, L. et al searched 12 databases for studies that estimated the scale of violence against children with disabilities or that compared their risk of being victims of violence with children without disabilities.

16 studies were identified that provided suitable data about levels of violence against disabled children and 11 studies were identified that looked at risk.

By pooling together the data from these studies, the researchers were able to estimate that:

  • 26·7% of disabled children experienced some type of violence
  • 20·4% of disabled children experienced physical violence
  • 13·7% of disabled children experienced sexual violence.

Compared to their non-disabled peers, disabled children were estimated to have:

  • 3·68 times higher odds of to experiencing some kind of violence
  • 3·56 times higher odds of to experiencing physical violence
  • 2·88 times higher odds of to experiencing sexual violence.

Over 6,000 children were identified as needing protection from physical abuse in 2016/17


There were 6,029 children in the UK on child protection registers or the subject of child protection plans under a category that included physical abuse on 31 March 2017 (or 31 July 2017 in Scotland). This equates to 10% of all the children on child protection registers or the subject of child protection plans. This is based on figures from each UK nation and includes all categories that include physical abuse.

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

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

  • England: 3,950
  • Northern Ireland: 1,170
  • Scotland: 484
  • Wales: 425

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

See Indicator 14 in How safe are our children? 2018 and our summaries of child protection register and plan statistics for England (PDF)Northern Ireland (PDF)Scotland (PDF) and Wales (PDF).

The NSPCC’s helpline responded to over 12,000 contacts about physical abuse in 2017/18

Explanation:The NSPCC’s helpline responded to 12,215 contacts related to concerns about physical abuse in 2017/18.


There were over 7,000 Childline counselling sessions with children and young people about physical abuse in 2017/18

Explanation: There were 6,901 counselling sessions with children and young people about physical abuse in 2017/18. This includes where the young person has been physically abused by an adult/older person and where they have felt at risk or have been threatened with violence.

See also Indicator 7 in How safe are our children? 2018.

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

22% of the concerns that the NSPCC’s helpline referred to police or children’s services in 2017/18 related to physical abuse

Explanation: The NSPCC’s helpline responded to over 65,067 contacts in 2017/18 from people who were concerned about a child’s welfare.

33,293 contacts resulted in a referral to an external agency, such as the police or social services.

7,357 (22%) of referrals were due to concerns about physical abuse.

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