200% increase in reports of child emotional abuse

NSPCC helpline receiving equivalent of 27 reports of child emotional abuse a day

Woman on the phone

The number of people contacting our helpline concerned about a child being emotionally abused has increased by 200% in 7 years:

  • in 2009/10 we received 3,341 reports
  • in 2016/17 this figure increased to 10,009.

However, the full scale of the problem could be much greater. So we're demanding that the Government commissions a study into the extent of child abuse and neglect in the UK.

These figures were revealed in our annual How safe are our children? report, published at the start of our flagship conference for child protection professionals.

What is emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse is the ongoing emotional maltreatment of a child. It’s sometimes called psychological abuse and can seriously damage a child’s emotional health and development.

Emotional abuse can involve deliberately trying to scare or humiliate a child or isolating or ignoring them.

Children who are emotionally abused are often suffering another type of abuse or neglect at the same time – but this isn’t always the case.


Find out more about emotional abuse

What we're calling for

Child abuse often goes unreported and unrecorded. We have seen a huge increase in people reporting emotional abuse. But we don't know how many more children in the UK are suffering from emotional abuse or any other form of maltreatment.

So we are calling on the Government to a commission a new survey to give us an up-to-date picture of the extent of child abuse and neglect in the UK.

NSPCC chief executive Peter WanlessNSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said:
"Hearing reports from our Helpline about parents or carers who are consistently verbally assaulting, bullying, isolating or humiliating their children is devastating.

"The huge increase in people recognising and reporting emotional abuse to our Helpline indicates people are willing to take action, but the disturbing truth is that the UK has no idea how many other children are suffering from emotional abuse or in fact, any type of abuse.

"We urgently need Government to step in now, before another eight years go by, and commission a study that gives us the clearest possible picture of the extent of child abuse and neglect in the UK."

Keeping children safe

Call the NSPCC helpline

If you're worried about a child, even if you're unsure, contact our professional counsellors for help, advice and support.

Call us or email help@nspcc.org.uk.

0808 800 5000

Report a concern