How abuse changes childhood

Child abuse can take many forms. It can be emotional, physical, sexual or a lack of love and attention through neglect. And it can happen to any child, in any family, in any place or online.

Abuse often happens over a period of time, rather than as a one-off event, and can have a devastating effect on a child's development and society as a whole.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can all play our part in preventing abuse. And we can all help a child who’s experienced abuse to get their life back on track.

Train on track

We can work with families to prevent abuse

Severe problems such as poverty, drug or alcohol addiction or mental health issues can overload our capacity to care for children and can lead to a child being abused or neglected. Sometimes children themselves struggle to treat other children as they should.

That's not to say difficult circumstances inevitably lead to abuse, or that abuse can ever be excused. But these circumstances do make it more likely to happen.

By giving families the right support at the right time – from counselling or good foster care to a helping hand from a neighbour – we can help them manage these problems and give a child a more stable platform to grow up.

Supporting young minds

Experiences in the first years of our lives affect how our brains form. Science tells us that the stress of abuse or neglect can damage the basic structures of a child's developing brain. Without the right help, it can put them at risk of a lifetime of health problems, developmental issues and addiction.

But if we work together, we can help children overcome these stresses and have the nurturing experiences they need for positive development.

The impact of childhood abuse: what can we learn from neuroscience?

Professor Eamon McCrory explains the theory of latent vulnerability, how this can affect a child’s long term mental health and what can be done to help.
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It's never too late to help a child

Abuse can have a huge impact on a child's health, relationships and education and can stop them from having the childhood they deserve.

As the child grows into an adult, they can find it harder to cope with life's stresses, get a good job, or be a good parent. They may also develop mental health problems, drug or alcohol issues, criminal behaviour – or show signs of harmful behaviour themselves.

But abuse and its effects are preventable.

We can turn things around for a child at any stage of their development. And if we work together to give them the support they need, they can go on to lead happy and fulfilling lives.

"I never thought I'd feel this happy again but with the right support you can carry on with your life."
Gemma*

What we're doing to support children and families

Delivering services across the UK

We run a range of services to help families through tough times, support children after abuse and help professionals to keep children safe. Keep scrolling for more ways we're fighting against abuse.

Teaching children to stay safe

We deliver our Speak out Stay safe programme in schools across the country to make sure children know how to protect themselves from abuse and how to get help.

Helping children and adults in need

Our NSPCC helpline provides support to adults concerned about a child. And through our free Childline service, we're here for young people in need 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Learning and sharing what works

We research what works in the fight against child abuse and share our learning to change children's lives for the better.

How you can play your part

Abuse can be prevented – and each of us can play a role in the fight against it. Any act, big or small, can make a real difference to a child and create a safer society for all children.

Whether you support one of our campaignsvolunteer for our Childline service or take part in an event to raise funds, your contribution will help us be there for more children in need.

Donate now

Abuse changes childhoods. But so can we. Your donation will help make sure we're there, whenever a child needs us.

Make a donation

Campaign with us

Give a voice to children when no one is listening. Help us demand that all children are worth fighting for.
Sign up today

Volunteering for NSPCC and Childline

Join the fight for every childhood through one of our volunteering opportunities.
Volunteering for NSPCC and Childline

Find an NSPCC event

From marathons to gala dinners, there's an event you can do to raise money and help give children the childhood they deserve.
Find an NSPCC charity event

Do your own fundraising

There are lots of easy ways you can raise money to keep children safe from abuse and we're here to help you every step of the way.
Fundraise for us

Report abuse

Our helpline is here 24/7. So if you’re worried about a child, you can always talk to us.
Report abuse to our helpline

*DISCLAIMER

Names and identifying features have been changed to protect identity.