The landscape of child protection research in the UK A mapping review of studies of child abuse and neglect in all 4 nations of the United Kingdom

Boy sat in gardenTo ensure that we are building the evidence base in child protection by focussing our research efforts on the areas that have gaps or need additional evidence, we need to know more about the state of child protection research specifically in the UK.

The NSPCC commissioned the University of Edinburgh to carry out a mapping review of UK research on the subject of child protection published from January 2010 until December 2014. This project provides an evidence base to inform further academic research, child protection policy development, and the priorities of research funders.

Authors: Julie Taylor, Kirsteen Mackay, Andressa Gadda, Francesca Soliman, Estelle Clayton, Christine Jones, Derek Jones, and Anna Anderson
Published: 2015

The researchers looked specifically at reports and articles that included UK data, at least one author at UK university, covered any form of child abuse and included original data or analysis of data.

  • The review found 467 academic papers in over 200 journals which were published from 2010-14 and met the definition of child protection research. 243 items of grey literature (material produced outside of the traditional publishing and distribution channels) were identified.
  • 11 topics were identified in the research:
    • aetiology (causes of abuse and neglect)
    • therapeutic interventions in adulthood
    • therapeutic interventions in childhood
    • preventative interventions
    • children's experiences
    • incidence and prevalence of abuse and neglect
    • nature of consequences or outcomes of child maltreatment in adulthood
    • nature of consequences or outcomes of child maltreatment in childhood
    • assessment/diagnosis of abuse and neglect
    • system/practice responses to child maltreatment
    • attitudes and beliefs.
  • The nature of consequences or outcomes of child maltreatment in adulthood was the most frequently researched substantive topic in the academic literature with 21% of the papers considering it. This was followed by system/practice responses to child maltreatment (14%); attitudes and beliefs (11%) and nature of consequences or outcomes in childhood (11%).

    In the grey literature, system or practice responses to child maltreatment (30%) and incidence and prevalence of abuse and neglect (21%) were also common topics, along with publications concerned with attitudes and beliefs (8%), aetiology of child maltreatment (8%) and children's experiences (8%).
  • Of academic authors who were named first in their publications, 28% came from the discipline of psychology; 14% from medicine; 14% from social work; 12% from psychiatry.

    Where information about the discipline of the first author of the grey literature was available, 34% came from social work; 18% from social and public policy; 12% from psychology.
  • It is difficult to analyse the types of maltreatment covered in the research due to differences in definitions and subdivisions of abuse. However, a third of the academic literature considered sexual abuse alone, 19% of articles focussed solely on physical abuse and 13% on neglect.

    In the grey literature, neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse were also the focus of much attention.
List of tables 2
List of figures 2
Introductions 7
Outline of the project 9
Findings 16
Discussion 37
References 48
Appendices 51

Please cite as: Taylor, J., et al. (2015) The landscape of child protection research in the UK: a UK mapping review. London: NSPCC.

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