Research - Child Abuse - statistics
CHILD ABUSE Research a sample that conflicts
with Domestic policy and Family courts:
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
states that there were more than 1,000,000 documented child
abuse cases in 1990. In 1983, it found that 60% of perpetrators
were women with sole custody. Shared parenting can significantly
reduce the stress associated with sole custody, and reduce
the isolation of children in abusive situations by allowing
both parents' to monitor the children's health and welfare
and to protect them.
The Truth About Child Murder
The Relationship between Sex, Household Incomes,
Families, and Child Abuse
The Third National Incidence Study of Child
Abuse and Neglect (NIS-3)
US Department of Health and Human Services,
page 6-11, table 6-4
NIS-3 is a comprehensive, credible nationwide
study of the extent of child abuse and who the perpetrators
It reports that in 1993 children were 59 times
more likely to be fatally
abused [read: murdered] by natural mothers than by natural
From: CSOCWORK - Canadian Social Work Discussion
Subject: The Invisible Boy
Interesting snips from The Invisible Boy:
The research suggests that, overall, female
and male perpetrators commit many of the same acts and follow
many of the same patterns of abuse against their victims.
They also do not tend to differ significantly in terms of
their relationship to the victim (most are relatives) or the
location of the
1991; Kaufman et al., 1995).
When the victim is male, female perpetrators
account for 1%-24% of abusers. When the victim is female,
female perpetrators account for 6%-17% of abusers
Humane Association, 1981; Finkelhor and Russell, 1984; and
Finkelhor et al., 1990).
In the Ontario Incidence Study, 10% of sexual
abuse investigations involved female perpetrators (Trocme,
1995). However, in six studies reviewed by Russell and Finkelhor,
female perpetrators accounted for 25% or more of abusers.
Ramsay-Klawsnik (1990a) found that adult females were abusers
of males 37% of the time, female adolescents 19% of the time.
Both of these rates are higher than the same
study reported for adult and teen male abusers...
Violence against children by women is another
issue where the public attitude is very different than the
facts revealed by formal studies.
Third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect
(NIS-3) from the US Department of Health and Human Services
reveals data about child abuse by mothers.
Women commit most child abuse in intact biological
families. When the man is removed from the family the children
are at greater risk. Mother-only households are more dangerous
to children than father-only households.
Children are 3 times more likely to be fatally
abused in Mother-only Households than in Father-only Households,
and many times more likely in households where the mother
cohabits with a man other than the biological father.
Children raised in Single-mother Households
are 8 times more likely to become killers than children raised
with their biological father.
Other studies reveal more about female violence
Women hit their male children more frequently
and more severely than they hit their female children.
Women commit 55% of child murders and 64% of
their victims are male children.
Eighty two percent of the general population
had their first experience of violence at the hands of women,
usually their mother.
Our culture learns to be violent from our mothers,
not our fathers.
Yet, 3.1 million reports of child abuse are
filed against men each year, most of which are false accusations
used as leverage in a divorce or custody case.
validated and verified by:
Murray Straus, a sociologist and co-director
for the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New
Hampshire and Richard Gelles of the University of Rhode Island
and author of Intimate Violence and other studies, also validated
the statistics used by matching it to previous research.
Researchers in Michigan determined that "49
percent of all child abuse cases are committed by single mothers."
Source: Joan Ditson and Sharon Shay, "A Study of Child
Abuse in Lansing, Michigan," Child Abuse and Neglect,
A study of 156 victims of child sexual abuse
found that the majority of the children came from disrupted
or single-parent homes; only 31 percent of the children lived
with both biological parents. Although stepfamilies make up
only about 10 percent of all families, 27 percent of the abused
children lived with either a stepfather or the mother's boyfriend.
Jonathan Horowitz, and Albert P. Cardarelli, "Child Sexual
Abuse Victims and Their Treatment," U.S. Department of
Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency prevention.
Most States define perpetrators of child abuse or neglect
as a parent or other caretaker, such as a relative, babysitter,
or foster parent, who has maltreated a child. Fifty-nine percent
of perpetrators were women and 41 percent were men. The median
age of female perpetrators was 31 years; the median age of
male perpetrators was 34 years. More than 80 percent of victims
(84 percent) were abused by a parent or parents. Almost half
of child victims (41 percent) were maltreated by just their
mother, and one-fifth of victims (19 percent) were maltreated
by both their mother and father.
* There is no ''typical'' child abuser.
* May be male or female -Data from 21 states indicate that
61.8% of perpetrators were female.
* The majority of instances of child abuse are committed by
someone who knows the child.
* In 87.3% of cases at least one parent was identified as
the perpetrator. In 17.7% of cases both parents were identified
* Mothers acting alone were most often identified as perpetrators
of neglect and physical abuse.
* Fathers acting alone were identified as perpetrators of
sexual abuse at the highest percentage.
* Together, substitute care providers and family relatives
were only identified as 5.4% of cases.
* May be young or old-In 1999 the highest percent of perpetrators
fell between the ages of 30-39.
* May be of any ethnicity or nationality.
* May be a former victim of abuse or neglect.
(Statistics from National Child Abuse and Neglect Data Systems,
NSPCC report shows that fathers are 'less
violent' than mothers in their disciplining of children.
'Child Maltreatment in the United Kingdom', published in November
2000 by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty
to Children (NSPCC)
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Administration
for Children and Families
Administration on Children, Youth and Families Children's
Table 3-2: Perpetrator Relationship to Victim, 1999 DCDC
Relationship to Victim Number Percentage
Female Parent Only 145,028
Male Parent Only 51,752
Both Parents 57,320
Female Parent and Other 25,703
Male Parent and Other 3,544
Table 3-4: Perpetrator Relationship to Victims by Maltreatment
Maltreatment Type Perpetrators' Relationship to Child Victims
Neglect Medical Neglect
Physical Abuse Sexual Abuse
Number Percentage Number Percentage Number Percentage Number
Female Parent Only 114,905
Male Parent Only 27,548
Both Parents 41,177
Female Parent and Other 18,258
Male Parent and Other 2,204
Table 4-4: Maltreatment Fatalities by Perpetrator Relationship,
Relationship of Perpetrator to Victim Number of Fatality Victims
Percentage of Fatality Victims
Male Parent and Other 5
Family Relative 20
Substitute Care Provider(s) 27
Male Parent Only 47
Female Parent and Other 72
Both Parents 94
Female Parent Only 139
A perpetrator of child abuse and/or neglect is a person who
maltreated a child while in a caretaking relationship to that
Three-fifths (61.8%) of perpetrators were female.
Female perpetrators were typically younger than their male
counterparts-41.5 percent were younger than 30 years of age,
compared to 31.2 percent of male perpetrators.
Almost nine-tenths (87.3%) of all victims were maltreated
by at least one parent. The most common pattern of maltreatment
was a child victimized by a female parent acting alone (44.7%).
Female parents were identified as the perpetrators of neglect
and physical abuse for the highest percentage of child victims.
In contrast, male parents were identified as the perpetrators
of sexual abuse for the highest percentage of victims.
Data on perpetrators from 21 States indicate
that, of the 554,047 perpetrators identified, 61.8 percent
were female and 38.2 percent were male. As shown in figure
3-1, female perpetrators were typically younger than male
perpetrators. Of female perpetrators, 41.5 percent were younger
than 30 years of age, but only 31.2 percent of male perpetrators
fell within this age group.
As shown in Figure 3-2, the most common pattern
of maltreatment was a child victimized by a female parent
acting alone (44.7%). Both parents were identified as perpetrators
for 17.7 percent of the child victims, and male parents acting
alone were identified as perpetrators for 15.9 percent of
the victims. Thus, at least one parent was identified as the
perpetrator for 87.3 percent of the victims. Substitute care
providers and family relatives were infrequently identified
as perpetrators; these two categories combined were identified
as perpetrators for only 5.4 percent of the victims. These
percentages are similar to the percentages reported for 1998.
The data in figure 3-3 are based on the association
of perpetrators with specific types of maltreatment. The relationship
of the perpetrator(s) to the child is reported more than once
if the child was a victim of more than one type of maltreatment.
As reported in previous years, female parents
acting alone were
identified as the perpetrators of neglect and physical abuse
for the highest percentage of child victims. In contrast,
male parents acting alone were identified as the perpetrators
for the highest percentage of sexual abuse victims.
Parents were perpetrators for 91.8 percent and
85.0 percent of
victims of neglect and victims of physical abuse, respectively.
However, parents were perpetrators for only 50.0 percent of
victims of sexual abuse.
Of the first 100 battered women she gave refuge
to, "62 were as violent or even more violent than the
men they'd left." But nearly 30 years later, society
is still unwilling to acknowledge that violent women exist
and is therefore still not offering them any help. "I
have pleaded for the cause of violent women," says Pizzey.
Today, virtually all battered women's shelters
-- including the one Pizzey founded -- are operated by feminists
automatically stereotypes men as aggressors and women as victims.
On both sides of the Atlantic, employment ads
for women's shelters routinely require that applicants subscribe
to a feminist
understanding of domestic violence.
As a result, the large number of women served
by these shelters who require assistance themselves to interrupt
destructive patterns are actually having their behaviour reinforced
when shelter workers assure them they are not to blame.
Pizzey says this sends a terrible message to
children trapped in
violent families. Kids learn that "this is what women
do, this is
what women are. My mother can batter me, hit me, beat me,
shame me, humiliate me, and society ignores what she does.
But my father has only got to lose his cool" and he's
stigmatized, criminally charged and "loses his family"
in divorce proceedings.
Congress makes the following findings:
(1) Nearly 24,000,000 children in the United States, or 34
percent of all such children, live apart from their biological
(2) Sixty percent of couples who divorce have at least 1 child.
(3) The number of children living with only a mother increased
from just over 5,000,000 in 1960, to 17,000,000 in 1999, and
between 1981 and 1991 the percentage of children living with
only 1 parent increased from 19 percent to 25 percent.
(4) Forty percent of children who live in households without
father have not seen their father in at least 1 year and 50
percent of such children have never visited their father's
(5) The most important factor in a child's upbringing is whether
the child is brought up in a loving, healthy, supportive environment.
(6) Children who live without contact with their biological
are, in comparison to children who have such contact--
(A) 5 times more likely to live in poverty;
(B) more likely to bring weapons and drugs into the classroom;
(C) twice as likely to commit crime;
(D) twice as likely to drop out of school;
(E) more likely to commit suicide;
(F) more than twice as likely to abuse alcohol or drugs; and
(G) more likely to become pregnant as teenagers.
(7) Violent criminals are overwhelmingly males who grew up
(9) Responsible fatherhood includes active participation in
financial support and child care, as well as the formation
maintenance of a positive, healthy, and nonviolent relationship
between father and child and a cooperative relationship between
(10) States should be encouraged to implement programs that
provide support for responsible fatherhood, promote marriage,
and increase the incidence of marriage, and should not be
restricted from implementing such programs.
(11) Fatherhood programs should promote and provide support
(A) loving and healthy relationships between parents and children;
(B) cooperative parenting.
(12) There is a social need to reconnect children and fathers.
(13) The promotion of responsible fatherhood and encouragement
of married 2-parent families should not--
(A) denigrate the standing or parenting efforts of single
mothers or other caregivers;
(B) lessen the protection of children from abusive parents;
(C) compromise the safety or health of the custodial parent;
but should increase the chance that children will have two
caring parents to help them grow up healthy and secure.
(14) The promotion of responsible fatherhood must always recognize
and promote the values of nonviolence.
(15) For the future of the United States and the future of
children, Congress, States, and local communities should assist
parents to become more actively involved in their children's
(16) Child support is an important means by which a parent
can take financial responsibility for a child and emotional
support is an important means by which a parent can take social
responsibility for a child.
(18) Despite declining national and State rates, in the United
States 4 out of 10 girls get pregnant at least once by age
nearly 1,000,000 girls each year. There are nearly 500,000
births each year.
A Study of the Prevalence of Child Abuse and Neglect
The NSPCC has undertaken a major piece of national
research to explore the childhood experience of young people
in the UK, including their experience of abuse and neglect.
This is the only UK study, and one of the few world wide,
to examine child maltreatment comprehensively, in a large
random probability sample of the general population.
The 2,689 young people, aged 18-24 years, were
interviewed using Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing
(CAPI) and able to enter their answers directly to ensure
Common stereotypes about child abuse are overturned
in the NSPCC¹s largest ever study of child maltreatment.
Myth: the most common
form of abuse suffered by children at home is sexual abuse.
Fact: children are seven times
more likely to be beaten badly by their parents than sexually
abused by them.
Myth: most sexual
abuse occurs between fathers and their daughters.
Fact: this type of incestuous
relationship is rare, occurring in less than four in a thousand
children. The most likely relative to abuse within the family
is a brother or stepbrother.
Myth: adults are
responsible for most sexual violence against children and
young people outside the family.
Fact: children are most likely
to be forced into unwanted sexual activity by other young
people, must usually from someone described as a Oboyfriend.¹
Less than three in a thousand of the young people reported
sexual behaviour against their wishes with professionals working
Myth: sexual attacks
on children from strangers are common.
Fact: sexual assaults involving
contact by strangers are very rare. Even with indecent exposure,
only seven per cent of the young people reported ever having
been Oflashed at¹, and just over a third of these said
the person was a stranger.
Myth: most physical
abuse is carried out by men, especially fathers.
Fact: violent acts towards children
are more likely to be meted out by mothers than fathers (49%
of the sample experienced this from mothers and 40% from fathers).
NSPCC Director Mary Marsh says: Modern myths
about child cruelty have emerged from the public attention
given to horrific and frightening cases of child abuse by
strangers. Other traditional stereotypes come from a historical
wellspring of children¹s stories about wicked adult bogey
figures. These stereotypes have become part of popular culture.
challenges us to re-examine preconceived ideas about child
cruelty. In some cases it calls on policy-makers and professionals
to overhaul thinking and reconsider how to approach different
kinds of child maltreatment.
Over the last 100 years the NSPCC has helped
to protect hundreds of thousands of children from cruelty.
Yet, at the start of a new millennium, we do not know the
true scale of child abuse and neglect in the UK.
Official data does not paint the whole picture.
There are large numbers of abused children who never see a
social worker or police officer and suffer in silence.
In March 1999, the NSPCC FULL STOP Campaign
was launched to create the conditions whereby cruelty to children
can be ended. Hundreds of thousands of people and organisations
from all sectors of society have joined the campaign since.
But if we are to achieve our ambitious goal,
we need to know much more about those cases of child abuse
which go unreported.
With this in mind, the NSPCC conducted a major
piece of research which forms the most authoritative study
of child abuse and neglect yet undertaken in the UK. It is
called Child Maltreatment in the United Kingdom - a study
of the prevalence of child abuse and neglect.
* To help the NSPCC
and others develop strategies to prevent child abuse
* To help the NSPCC and others
plan effective child protection services
* To provide a benchmark by which
the NSPCC and others can measure progress towards the goal
of ending cruelty to children
For ethical and practical reasons, it would
have been wrong to interview children on this subject in this
type of survey.
So the study is based on interviews with young
people aged 18 - 24 conducted by survey research company BMRB
International between September 1998 and February 1999.
This is the only UK study, and one of the few
world wide, to examine maltreatment comprehensively, in a
large random probability sample of the general population.
The 2,869 young people, aged 18-24 years were interviewed
using Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) and able
to enter their answers directly to ensure confidentiality.
They were contacted
through addresses taken randomly from the Postcode Address
File, the method used in all major national surveys.
The interviews covered broad aspects of childhood
experience, including aspects of family life, social relationships,
perspectives on child abuse and experience of abuse and neglect
in the family and other contexts.
The sample was drawn from all parts of the UK.
Most (56 per cent) were still living with their parents. Another
18 per cent were living with partners, while 8 per cent lived
alone and 15 per cent had their own children.
The interview questions did not define abuse
or neglect but asked the young people if they had experienced
a range of treatments, some positive and some negative, as
children. Respondents who indicated possible childhood abuse
neglect were asked more detailed questions about their experiences.
The survey achieved a response rate of 69 per
cent which is unusually high for surveys on this topic. Almost
all (98%) of the respondents felt the survey was worthwhile
and 85 per cent said that they would definitely be willing
to take part in further NSPCC research.
More than nine in ten of the young people said
they grew up in a warm and loving family.
Child abuse and neglect is largely a family
affair. But we should not lose sight of the fact that most
parents and carers are trustworthy - very few are abusers.
An overwhelming majority of the young people
interviewed in this study - 92 per cent - agreed that they
had had a warm and loving family background, with 77 per cent
strongly agreeing this. The vast majority had been praised,
hugged, cuddled, kissed or told nice things such as that they
for. Nine out of ten respondents reported close relationships
with their mothers and eight out of ten with their fathers.
Most respondents had some unwelcome experiences
during their childhood. One in three respondents also reported
that there was sometimes 'a lot of stress' in their families
and the same proportion reported financial pressures and worries.
Three quarters said they had been shouted or screamed at some
point, four in ten had been called stupid, lazy or a similar
and over a quarter said they had been sworn at. Over three
quarters of these experiences had occurred at home.
A smaller number of the young people interviewed gave a picture
of a darker childhood in which they were rarely or never shown
affection or were regularly hit, shouted or sworn at, or went
hungry. More than a quarter (26%) reported violence between
their parents and for five per cent the violence was constant
or frequent. A quarter of respondents also said there
were things that happened in their childhood that were hard
to talk about. One in ten strongly agreed with this.
The uncertainty over the ages at which it is
safe to leave children home alone¹, and the concerns
about children allowed out late at night unsupervised by adults,
are issues that can be better understood in the light of this
The general picture given by the respondents
is one of close supervision by parents. Between the ages of
five and nine only travelling to school alone was common,
usually above the age of seven.
More independence arises after the age of ten
but there was a clear pattern that most children in the UK
(88%) are not left at home in the evenings without adult supervision
until they are at least 12, and they don¹t stay at home
unsupervised overnight before they are 14 (91%).
Asked when they were first allowed out overnight
without parents knowing their whereabouts, more than four
out of 10 respondents said that this had not been permitted
until they were 16 or 17, and more than a third (36%) of these
18 24 year olds said that this still would never be allowed.
But there were some marked exceptions, which
indicate that some children were left unsupervised at a very
Neglect and potential neglect resulting from
absence of supervision was assessed on three levels.
Serious absence of supervision included children
first allowed to stay at home overnight without adult supervision
under the age of 10, or first out overnight without parents
knowing their whereabouts, aged under 14. This category included
five per cent of the sample.
Intermediate absence of supervision included
those first left unsupervised overnight aged 10-11, first
allowed out overnight, whereabouts unknown at the age of 14-15
and under 12s frequently left in charge of younger siblings
while parents were out. This category comprised 12 per cent
of the sample.
A third group, three per cent of the sample,
were rated as showing cause for concern because they were
first left without adult supervision in the evening, or going
to the town centre without an adult or much older child, when
they were under 10 years old.
In total, 20 per cent of the sample, or one
in five children, were assessed as experiencing less than
adequate supervision at some point in their childhood.
Boys were slightly less likely to be supervised
than girls on some measures, with girls far less likely than
boys to have been allowed out overnight. Respondents in manual
occupations were far more likely than those in Owhite collar¹
or professional occupations to have been allowed out overnight,
whereabouts unknown. Apart from this measure, social grade
More than four out of ten respondents had been
bullied or discriminated against by other children or young
people. For eight per cent this happened regularly over years.
Previous NSPCC research showed that more than
half of children aged eight to 15 years sometimes or often
worried about being bullied at school and that younger children
worried most. This study throws more light on this problem,
which is known to cause acute misery to many children.
Generally, bullying is defined as:
* occurring over time rather than
being a single aggressive act
* involving an imbalance of power
the powerful attack the powerless
* psychological, verbal or physical
This study showed that 43 per cent of young
people had, at some point in their childhood, experienced
bullying, discrimination or being made to feel different by
other children. Nearly all (94%) of these experiences took
place at school.
When asked why they believed this had happened,
the reasons given were usually personal characteristics over
which the young people had no control. 'Size' was given as
the reason by a more than a quarter of the respondents. 'Class'
(eg. how they spoke or dressed) and intelligence were each
cited as the reason by around a fifth of respondents.
Respondents from black and Asian ethnic groups were less likely
than white respondents to say that they had been bullied (24%
compared to 32%) but more likely to report discrimination
(23% compared to 6%). Eight per cent of those who had been
bullied or discriminated against gave 'race' as the reason.
But this masked a huge difference between ethnic groups: almost
seven out of ten respondents from minority ethnic groups who
had been bullied or discriminated against put this down to
their race, compared to just three per cent of white victims.
Name-calling, insults and verbal abuse were
most common almost nine in ten of those bullied said that
other children had treated them in this way. This amounts
to 37 per cent of all respondents. One in seven respondents
had been subjected to physical bullying such as hitting or
punching, and one in ten
had been threatened with violence. Bullying and discrimination
included damaging or stealing belongings, humiliating, ignoring/not
speaking to them, and telling lies about them or deliberately
getting them into trouble.
A fifth of those bullied, equivalent to eight
per cent of all respondents, said that they had been bullied
regularly over years. A quarter (10% of the whole sample)
had experienced long-term effects as a result.
The study confirms previous studies suggesting
that bullying and
discrimination, especially at school, is one of the most common
forms of harmful aggression experienced by children and young
people in the UK.
Seven per cent of the young people suffered
serious physical abuse by a parent or carer.
In England in the year to 31 March 2000, there
were 30,300 children on child protection registers, of which
8,700 were registered for physical injury, sometimes allied
to other forms of abuse and neglect.
The study attempts to distinguish seriously
abusive treatment from more usual forms of physical chastisement.
The young people were asked whether they had
ever as a child experienced being:
* Hit on the bottom
with a hard implement such as a stick
* Hit on another part of the body
with a hard implement
* Hit with a fist or kicked hard
* Thrown or knocked down
* Beaten up, being hit over and
* Grabbed around the neck and choked
* Burned or scalded on purpose
* Threatened with a knife or a
A quarter of respondents said they had experienced
at least one of these violent acts either in the family, at
school or in another situation. Yet these are acts which both
the present study and previous research have shown are unacceptable
to the great majority (in most instances more than nine out
of 10) of the UK population.
* 78% experienced
this violence at home
* 15% at school
* 13% in a public place
Within the family it is primarily birth parents
who mete out violent treatment. Of those who were treated
violently in childhood:
* 49 per cent were
treated violently by their mother
* 40 per cent by their father
* 5 per cent by their stepfather
* 3 per cent by their stepmother
Bruising was by far the most common injury suffered
as a result of violence, but respondents also reported broken
bones, head injuries, bites and burns.
The study graded the childhood maltreatment
on three levels:
* Serious physical
abuse was where the violent treatment either caused injury
or carried a high risk of injury if continued over time or
* Intermediate physical abuse was
where violent treatment occurred occasionally but caused no
injury, or where other physical treatment/discipline was used
regularly over the years and/or led to physical effects such
as pain, soreness or marks lasting at least until next day.
* Cause for concern was where the
injury or potential harm was not immediately serious but where
less serious physical treatment/discipline occurred regularly
and indicated problems in parenting or the quality of care
which could escalate or lead to continued distress for a child.
The study found that seven per cent of the young
people had suffered serious physical abuse at the hands of
their parents or carers.
There was a strong link between the socio-economic
status of the young person and serious physical abuse. Young
people in semi-skilled or unskilled manual jobs were three
times more likely to have suffered serious physical abuse
than those in professional jobs.
Another fourteen per cent of respondents suffered
at the intermediate level of physical abuse. And a final three
per cent came from families where there was cause for concern
about how children were treated.
In total, more than a fifth of respondents suffered
physically to some degree. Their parents or carers, at least
sometimes, breached the standards shown by previous research
to be accepted by the vast majority of people.
Girls were slightly more likely than boys to
be seriously physically abused by parents or carers but boys
were a little more likely to have experienced physical abuse
at intermediate levels.
Six per cent of the young people were subjected
to serious physical neglect at home.
In England in the year to 31 March 2000, there
were 30,300 children on protection registers, of which 14,000
were registered for neglect, sometimes allied to other forms
Almost all the young people questioned took
for granted that their parents or carers would provide food,
clean clothes and medical care. Less than one in a hundred
reported frequent failures of care on these issues. Small
numbers of respondents also reported lack of care on other
* Three per cent
often had to look after themselves due to their parents problems
with alcohol or drugs
* Two per cent regularly had to
look after themselves because their parents went away
* Less than one per cent said they
were allowed to go into dangerous places, that their home
was dangerous or unclean, or that they were abandoned.
As with physical abuse, lack of physical care
and nurturing was assessed on three levels.
Serious lack of care was identified as lack
of care which carried a high risk of injury or long-term harmful
Those who were seriously neglected as a child
* frequently went
without food as a young child
* frequently were not looked after
or taken to the doctor when ill as a young child
* frequently went to school in
dirty clothes as a young child
* regularly had to look after themselves
because parents went away or had drug or alcohol problems
* were abandoned or deserted
* lived in a home with dangerous
Intermediate lack of care was identified when
the lack of care was less serious but happened regularly,
or was serious but happened only occasionally (for example,
occasionally went hungry because there was no food to eat).
Cause for concern was identified when the lack
of care was not serious but indicated problems in parenting
or quality of care (eg. respondents said that they had been
given no dental care as a child, sometimes had to go to school
in dirty clothes, or lived in an unclean home).
The study found that six per cent of respondents
had suffered serious absence of physical care by their parents
The study underlines the links between child
neglect and social
disadvantage. Respondents in semi or unskilled employment
were ten times more likely to have experienced serious absence
of care in childhood than were respondents who were in professional
jobs and almost twice as likely as those in higher education.
Another nine per cent of respondents experienced
intermediate lack of care with a further two percent indicating
some cause for concern. In total, 18 per cent of respondents
experienced absence of care to some level in their childhood.
Six per cent of the young people were emotionally
maltreated consistently in childhood
Emotional maltreatment is not a new phenomenon
history is littered with examples of emotionally abusive and
neglected childhoods. However, in terms of child protection
thinking in this century, emotional or psychological maltreatment
is a comparative newcomer. It was only in 1980 that emotional
abuse was introduced as a criterion for children on child
Previous research concluded that emotional abuse
is the Omost hidden and underestimated form of child maltreatment¹
unlike other forms of abuse, it leaves no physical injuries.
Emotional maltreatment is inextricably linked with all forms
of abuse and neglect, all of which can create fear, guilt,
loss of self esteem and self confidence, and isolation from
the support of other people.
There is evidence that with all abuse and neglect
it is often the
psychological damage that lasts longest. But while other forms
of maltreatment can show physical evidence, emotional maltreatment,
when it occurs alone, is often not visible to others and is
the hardest form to deal with through child protection procedures.
This is why there has been so little research and so little
evidence about it.
This study is the first general population research
into the prevalence of emotional maltreatment in the UK.
The experiences of each respondent were grouped
and analysed according to seven types of emotional treatment.
Most maltreatment in these categories was by parents or carers.
* Terrorising threats
to harm the child, someone or something the child loves, threatening
with fear figures, threats to have the child sent away, making
the child do something that frightens them.
* Proxy attacks by harming someone
or something the child loves or values. This could include
deliberate attacks on the child¹s possessions or pets,
and also includes violence between carers.
* Psychological control and domination,
including attempts to overly control the child¹s thinking,
and isolation from other sources of support and development.
* Psycho/physical control and domination
- physical acts which exert control and domination causing
distress rather than pain or injury, such as washing out the
mouth with soap.
* Humiliation and degradation psychological
attacks on the child¹s worth or self esteem, which could
be verbal or non-verbal.
* Withdrawal withholding of affection
and care, exclusion from the family (including showing preference
for siblings and excluding the child from benefits given to
other children in the family).
* Antipathy showing marked dislike
of the child by word or deed
The most common emotional maltreatment was Oterrorising¹.
Over a third of respondents reported some of the experiences
in this category. The most common was of being Osometimes
really afraid of my father/ stepfather¹ followed by threats
of being sent away.
A quarter had experienced extreme psychological
domination, with parents who were unpredictable and/or allowed
them no freedom of thought or expression.
Almost a fifth of respondents had experienced
physical punishments such as having their mouths washed out
with soap or their noses rubbed in wet sheets, or had experienced
constant verbal attack such as being told throughout their
childhood that they were stupid, or that their parents wished
them dead or never born.
One in ten had loveless childhoods, reporting
that parents never showed them affection and excluded them
from treats the other children were getting, while a similar
proportion had experienced seeing a parent or a pet harmed
or had treasured possessions destroyed in proxy attacks.
Most people have unpleasant, frightening or
embarrassing experiences at some time, even with loved members
of their families, but these experiences are usually occasional
events. Emotional maltreatment is persistent and pervasive
to a level that can destroy the child¹s self confidence,
and trust in other people.
The research assessed this by looking at how
many of these experiences the child had on the seven dimensions
and assigning a score between 0 and 14. A score of seven or
more meant that the respondent had experienced damaging treatment
on at least four of the seven dimensions.
In all six per cent of respondents had scores
of seven or more and were assessed as experiencing serious
emotional maltreatment. Young women were twice as likely to
have high scores as young men.
These findings indicate that a small proportion
of respondents experienced multiple attacks on their emotional
well-being within their family for much or all of their childhood.
However, the study also shows that a much larger
number of the respondents experienced parenting which was
at times insensitive. Parents who tell their children that
they wish they were dead or had never been born, for example,
may be reacting to stress or family crisis rather than expressing
genuinely held long-term view, but it is hard to imagine a
more hurtful thing to say to a child.
One per cent of the young people suffered sexual
abuse by a parent or carer and three per cent by another relative.
In England in the year to 31 March 2000, there
were 30,300 children on protection registers, of which 5,600
were registered for sexual abuse, sometimes allied to other
forms of abuse and neglect.
The laws on sexual offences against children
are currently under review. In July 2000, a Home Office Review
proposed replacing current sexual offences such as incest
with a range of new offences including familial sexual abuse,
adult sexual abuse of a child and sexual activities between
minors. This study increases our understanding of the way
that sexual offences affect
children, whether committed inside and outside the family.
In the study, 18-24 year olds were asked whether
they had ever experienced any from a list of sexual acts when
they were under 16. Respondents were also asked whether these
activities had taken place against their wishes or with their
consent, at what age it had happened and how old the other
was. This information was used to assess whether they had
experienced sexual abuse.
Their answers were grouped as follows according
to the nature and seriousness of the activities.
* Penetrative or
oral acts involving sexual or anal intercourse, oral sex,
or the insertion of finger, tongue or object into the vagina
* Attempted penetrative or oral
acts, as above.
* Touching or fondling the respondents'
sex organs or private parts, getting the respondent to touch
a person's sex organs or sexually arouse them.
* Sexual hugging or kissing.
* Being videoed for pornographic
purposes, shown pornographic videos, magazines, computer images
or photos, or being made or encouraged to watch other people
having intercourse or performing sex or pornographic acts
* A person exposing sex organs
for to excite themselves or to shock the respondent
Relatively small numbers of the young people
had experienced sexual abuse by family members.
One per cent of the young people had been sexually
abused by a parent or step-parent, nearly always the male
parent. Nearly all involved sex acts involving genital or
anal physical contact. Very few said they had been used by
a parent to make pornography, made to watch sex acts or exposure.
Male and female respondents were equally likely to have been
abused by parents.
Three per cent of the young people had been sexually abused
by a relative other than a parent. Three quarters of this
group were young women. A wide range of relatives were involved
- nearly all were male, with brothers and step-brothers mentioned
most often. Again, most of this involved genital or anal physical
contact, with one per cent being used to make pornography,
made to watch sex acts or exposure.
One in ten of the young people had experienced
penetrative sex, oral sex or attempts at these against their
will by people known but unrelated to them. A large number
reported the use of physical force or threat.
Far more of the respondents had experienced
unwanted sexual behaviour with non-relatives than with family
members. Nearly all occurred with people known to the child,
the vast majority with 'boyfriends' and 'girlfriends'.
Penetrative or oral sex acts which occurred
against the young people's wishes or with people at least
5 years older
* 70 per cent occurred
with 'boyfriends' or 'girlfriends'
* 17 per cent occurred with 'someone
* 10 per cent occurred with a fellow
student or pupil
* 6 per cent occurred with a friend
of parent or sibling
* 4 per cent occurred with neighbours
* 4 per cent occurred with a female
* 3 per cent occurred with a male
* 2 per cent occurred with babysitters
Very few respondents reported sexual activity
involving professionals responsible for their care, and none
involving care workers.
The only unwanted sexual activity experienced
frequently from strangers was indecent exposure. But even
among the seven per cent who reported this, respondents were
twice as likely to experience it from a known person than
from a stranger.
Up to 75 per cent of those reporting sexual
acts against their wishes or with someone much older were
female. More than nine out of ten of these young women reported
that the other person concerned was male. For the young men
who reported similar experiences, the picture was more mixed.
Sexual incidents most often took place either
in the respondent's own home or in the home of the other person.
Other locations were rarely mentioned, except for indecent
exposure, where 30 per cent of incidents occurred in an
open place such as woods or parks, or abandoned buildings.
Where respondents reported actual or attempted
oral or penetrative sex against their wishes, physical force
and blackmail had been commonly used. Force had been used
in six out of ten attempts to coerce them into oral or penetrative
sex attacks and blackmail in four out of ten attempts.
Most sexual behaviour which is unwanted or involves
a much older person occurs in adolescence. Around three quarters
of male and female respondents who experienced actual or attempted
oral or penetrative acts against their wishes or with an older
person were aged between 13-15 years when it first
Only 28 per cent of the young people who had
experienced sexual acts which were unwanted or involving a
much older person told anyone about at the time; 27 per cent
told someone later, and 31 per cent had never told anyone.
Of those who had told someone, most had told a friend, while
a minority had
told a parent or other relative. Hardly anyone had told police,
social services or other professionals.
Six per cent of respondents reported having
been involved in 'consensual' sexual behaviour when aged 13-15,
with someone five or more years older than themselves.
Families are the primary source of love and
nurturing for nearly all children. But significant minorities
of children are confronted - either occasionally or regularly
- by stresses, problems and abusive behaviour with which they
should not have to cope.
For many children too, the wider world of school,
friends and community is one which is fraught with the threats
of bullying, discrimination and - particularly for girls -
sexual harassment and violence.
This study underlines the need for children's
voices to be heard by the people who can help them. Children
need the self-confidence to speak out and someone they trust
and in whom they can confide.
Large numbers of children find it too difficult
to talk about the abuse and difficulties which they face in
their lives. If they do tell someone, it is very unlikely
to be a professional concerned with their care. In this way,
distressing and harmful childhood experiences can remain hidden
for many years.
In terms of severity and frequency, there are
different levels of child maltreatment. When children at risk
of significant harm are identified, children¹s services
must act quickly and decisively to protect them. And firm
action against carers may be appropriate when a child has
suffered serious abuse or neglect.
However, not all cruelty to children is planned
or intended to cause harm. Our approach to child protection
must be a sophisticated one, geared up for preventing child
abuse and neglect.
Although children from all social backgrounds
can suffer maltreatment, the study found strong links between
serious physical abuse or neglect and socio-economic grade.
This indicates that children in families facing poverty and
social exclusion are particularly vulnerable.
If we are serious about reducing the incidence
of child cruelty, we must give more support to those families
pushed to the limits by extreme stress, medical conditions
or socio-economic pressures.
This report presents a challenge to society
in general, and professionals and policy-makers in particular,
to create the conditions whereby no child has to worry about
going hungry or being assaulted in the family home.
It also challenges us to rethink the ways we
support families in the UK and care for children both inside
and outside the family setting. Most child abuse goes unreported
or undetected. We need to find ways to reach its many hidden
We know that cruelty to children can be brought
to a full stop, if the will to do so exists.
The United Kingdom is a signatory to the United
Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article 3 of
the Convention requires that 'States Parties undertake to
ensure the child such protection and care as is necessary
for his or her well-being' and Article 19 requires 'protection
from all forms of maltreatment perpetrated by parents or caretakers'.
present survey shows a number of ways in which we should be
improving the protection that we offer to our children. Some
require further research to increase knowledge and some could
be implemented now on the basis of our existing knowledge.
A general population survey of the prevalence of maltreatment
should be carried out at regular intervals not exceeding 10
A national incidence study of all known cases of child maltreatment
should be developed as part of regular service monitoring,
to collate reports from social services, health services,
schools, voluntary agencies, the probation service and police.
A permanent database of all fatal child abuse and neglect
cases should be maintained by Department of Health and the
Home Office. This should include all child homicides, and
should be available for research and for the preparation of
training materials for professionals working with
Research is needed which examines the basis of differential
assessment of child maltreatment by victims and professionals
in more detail than hitherto.
Training for those investigating allegations of maltreatment
and for judges and other lawyers dealing with the court process
should make them aware that, for a variety of reasons, victims
may minimise their experience, even when they have suffered
Better, more accessible public information is needed for children
and their families on the nature of child maltreatment. This
would assist children to recognise when the treatment they
or children in their families receive is unacceptable. It
would help adults to recognise when children known to them
may need protection.
Research, practice and training initiatives are needed to
enlarge our knowledge and understanding of neglect and emotional
maltreatment, and to establish a consensual base for the development
of standards of care, an appropriate legal framework, and
measures of Osignificant harm¹.
Strategies for dealing with sexual abuse inside and outside
the family should be reviewed, to ensure that they address
adequately the different characteristics of these situations.
Implications for training for the professionals involved are
We should take very seriously the evidence that physical,
sexual and psychological attack from peers (including siblings
and step- siblings) are the most common abusive experiences
faced by young people and address the issues of cultures which
promote physical and sexual aggression among young people.
Schools and youth services have a major part to play here,
but so also does the media, and community initiatives could
be particularly valuable where young people experience the
streets as unsafe.
Recommendation 10: Urgent attention
is needed to providing forms of help with sexual abuse which
can be easily and confidentially accessed by young people.
The British Crime Survey should be expanded to cover crimes
against children under 16. Crime statistics should report
the ages of victims.
Agencies providing child protection services should review
their strategies, including training and management support,
for identifying and working with maltreatment in middle class
Research is needed on the dynamics of family violence to assist
professionals in identifying the different situations in which
violence and emotional maltreatment can arise. Strategies
for protecting children will need to be quite different if
the problems result from situational pressures such as illness
or poverty than if they result from fundamentally pathological,
aggressively dominant relationships.
24 March 2004
Doctors in New Zealand are prescribing potentially
dangerous drugs to depressed young people instead of therapy,
because of a lack of available counselling services, the Medical
Association GP Council said today. Warnings were issued yesterday
by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States
that 10 of the most popular modern anti-depressants should
be closely monitored for warning signs of suicidal behaviour.
health authorities are investigating the American concerns,
which centre around controversial anti-depressants, known
as Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs). Since
1998, the number of New Zealand children and young people
using SSRIs such as Prozac and Aropax has increased by almost
two-thirds. The US warning said that SSRIs shouldn't be used
in most circumstances, and Britain has banned their use completely
for teenagers following the studies. Chief executive of the
UK National Association for Mental Health Richard Brook said
after examining the results, British regulatory authorities
decided the drugs were not only ineffective for teens, but
unsafe. "What we have is a series of drugs deemed not
effective... What we also found in the UK when we put these
studies together was there was an increased risk of hostility
and suicidal thinking," he told National Radio. Teens
faced different issues than adults, he said. Cognitive behaviour
therapy, counselling, talking and helping young people with
social life and friendships seemed more effective, Dr Brook
said. "These drugs don't seem to be particularly helpful,
useful or indeed even safe for under-18s." Despite fierce
lobbying from pharmaceutical companies, licensing arrangements
banned the drugs. However, doctors could occasionally use
discretion to prescribe them to teens in some occasions. New
Zeland GP Council chairman Peter Foley said it was often difficult
to refer people to counselling so "it may be the case"
that GPs gave them medication instead."The services offered
around the country are not as easily sourced as medication
is," he told National Radio. Dr Foley called for better
alternatives to medication."GPs are not well funded for
spending time with patients. We would like that to happen
and therapeutic services in different DHBs (district health
boards) in the way of counselling are very hard to source,
so they need to be better funded as well." Dr Foley said
the US results were so far inconclusive, and New Zealand GPs
were awaiting more
definite conclusions before changing their approach. Despite
the statistics, he said GPs here had a "cautionary"
approach to prescribing anti-depressants as a "second
line" treatment for teenagers. He acknowledged the prescribing
of antidepressants to under-18s had increased by 60 per cent
in the past
four years, but said the diagnosis of teenage depression had
improved and "the incidence of depression is probably
rising in our community". The Ministry of Health's medicines
and adverse reaction's committee is reviewing the use of the
SSRIs and expected to respond today. The SSRIs are not registered
for use by under 18-year-olds but the ministry says it is
some doctors choose to prescribe them. The FDA issued a caution
on paediatric use of anti-depressants last year, but this
week's action goes significantly further. It follows pleas
from dozens of anguished parents citing pre-teens and teenagers
who hanged themselves or slashed their wrists shortly after
starting the anti-depressants. Researchers at the Christchurch
School of Medicine have been seeking funding for a three-year
study of anti-depressant use in up to 400 New Zealand children
and adolescents. About 24,500 antidepressant prescriptions
are written for New Zealand children and young people each
year. An Otago Medical School study released last year linked
anti-depressants to 41 deaths in 2001, with anti-depressant
overdoses the cause of 23 of the deaths. The FDA has said
it is not yet "clear" that the drugs actually did
lead to suicide, but until that was settled, it called for
stronger warnings to doctors and parents that the anti-depressants
may cause agitation, anxiety and hostility.