Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The NSPCC Prevalence Study Revisited

It has been an unexpectedly busy month and I have only just got round to reading the NSPCC prevalence study http://www.nspcc.org.uk/Inform/research/findings/child_abuse_neglect_research_wda84173.html.

I found it rather frustrating. There is a lot of data and all kinds of questions are raised, while only some are answered. 

I would have liked to have seen much more analysis of the sub-groups of children and young people who were persistently abused within their families. In particular I would have liked to have seen what proportion became involved with statutory services, because to know this would be an indicator of how many maltreated children there are out there at any one time whose needs are not being met.

Table 3.2 (page 41) was of most interest to me. It provides information about the prevalence of severe maltreatment by a parent or guardian. 5% of children under 11 had been severely abused and neglected (on at least one occasion). 13.4% of 11-17 years olds reported severe maltreatment and 14.5% of 18-24s. Obviously the rates rise with age because these are statistics about prevalence, not incidence. In other words nearly 15% of young adults report at least one incident of severe abuse or neglect by a parent or guardian during their childhood. That should give us all cause to pause and reflect.

I wasn’t convinced that comparison between this survey and Pat Cawson’s survey for the NSPCC in the late 1990s provides proof positive that child abuse and neglect is decreasing slightly. Yes, there are statistically significant differences in prevalence between the two samples, but before we conclude anything about trends I think we would need to carry out the survey more frequently. Just because a particular result has a low probability does not mean to say that it won’t happen. 

Sadly the cost of this type of research makes it unlikely that more frequent surveys will be undertaken by a charity like the NSPCC. I think government needs to pay for this type of research, as it pays for the annual British Crime Survey. Perhaps then we would get a better view of trends

Monday, 5 September 2011

The first report of the NSPCC prevalence study .....

It is a long and complex document which I will be reading over the next few days - so look out for my comments next week.