Thursday, 17 February 2011

The Prevalence of Child Abuse and Neglect in Britain

The NSPCC’s survey of the prevalence of child maltreatment is most welcome. (Child cruelty in the UK 2011 An NSPCC study into childhood abuse and neglect over the past 30 years February 2011 - )

At this stage only an executive summary is available. Even a careful reading of this left me a bit confused about the main implications. It is, however, clear that this study, like its 1999 predecessor (also conducted by the NSPCC), is a very important piece of research that must be studied carefully by professionals and policy makers.

One in seven of the young adults surveyed (14.5%) reported that they had been severely maltreated by a parent or guardian during childhood.

This is, of course, a shocking figure, but a problem is that studies like this are, of necessity, studies of prevalence not incidence. In other words they survey a random sample of the population to determine if they have ever been victims of child abuse and neglect. Turning the findings into estimates of incidence (i.e. how many children and young people are being abused and neglected at any one time) is not easy. But by any standards it seems hard to reconcile the relatively small numbers of children subject to child protection plans (less than 50,000) with the main findings of this research, suggesting that under-reporting of abuse and neglect remains a serious problem.

I am looking forward to being able to dig down into the detail of this study when the full findings are released. Of particular importance will be information relating to the sub-group of those reporting persistent maltreatment and any information about the extent to which they received (or did not receive) help from statutory services.