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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 are.

It reports that in 1993 children were 59 times more likely to be fatally
abused [read: murdered] by natural mothers than by natural fathers.

Source: http://christianparty.net/nis3.htm

From: CSOCWORK - Canadian Social Work Discussion List
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

Source: (Allen, 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

Source: (American 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.

Source: The 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 against children:

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.

Source:Statistics 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, 8 (1984).

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.
Source: Beverly Gomes-Schwartz, 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.


Perpetrators: 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.
http://www.nccanch.acf.hhs.gov/index.cfm http://www.preventchildabusewi.org/perpetrators.htm

Child Abuse Perpetrators

* 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 as perpetrators.
* 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, 1999)

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)


Child Maltreatment 1999 Reports From the States to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Administration for Children and Families
Administration on Children, Youth and Families Children's Bureau
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 Type,
1999 DCDC
Maltreatment Type Perpetrators' Relationship to Child Victims Neglect Medical Neglect
Physical Abuse Sexual Abuse
Number Percentage Number Percentage Number Percentage Number Percentage
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, 1999 DCDC
Relationship of Perpetrator to Victim Number of Fatality Victims
Percentage of Fatality Victims
Male Parent and Other 5

Unknown 12

Family Relative 20

Other 25

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 has
maltreated a child while in a caretaking relationship to that child.

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.


Erin Pizzey:

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 whose analysis
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.

S.657- Strengthening Families Act of 2003 (Introduced in Senate)

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 father.
(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 a
father have not seen their father in at least 1 year and 50 percent of such children have never visited their father's home.
(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 father
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 without fathers.
(9) Responsible fatherhood includes active participation in
financial support and child care, as well as the formation and
maintenance of a positive, healthy, and nonviolent relationship
between father and child and a cooperative relationship between parents.
(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 services for--
(A) loving and healthy relationships between parents and children; and
(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; or
(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 our
children, Congress, States, and local communities should assist
parents to become more actively involved in their children's lives.
(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 20,
nearly 1,000,000 girls each year. There are nearly 500,000 teen
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 confidentiality.


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 with children.

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. This report
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.


Child abuse destroys children¹s lives.

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.

The study has three main objectives:

* 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 or
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 were cared
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 name,
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 study.

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 early age.

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 differences were


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 in nature

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
* Shaken
* Thrown or knocked down
* Beaten up, being hit over and over again
* Grabbed around the neck and choked
* Burned or scalded on purpose
* Threatened with a knife or a gun

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 throughout childhood.
* 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 of abuse.

Physical neglect: lack of physical care

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 individual issues:

* 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 effects.

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 conditions

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 or carers.

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 protection registers.

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, happiness
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 a
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.

Sexual abuse within the family

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 person
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 or anus.
* 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, or
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.

Sexual abuse outside the family

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 recently met'
* 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 stranger
* 3 per cent occurred with a male stranger
* 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 victims.

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'. The
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.

Recommendation 1: A general population survey of the prevalence of maltreatment should be carried out at regular intervals not exceeding 10 years.

Recommendation 2: 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.

Recommendation 3: 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
child fatalities.

Recommendations 4: Research is needed which examines the basis of differential assessment of child maltreatment by victims and professionals in more detail than hitherto.

Recommendation 5: 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 considerable harm.

Recommendation 6: 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.

Recommendation 7: 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.

Recommendation 8: 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 particularly important.

Recommendation 9: 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.

Recommendation 11: The British Crime Survey should be expanded to cover crimes against children under 16. Crime statistics should report the ages of victims.

Recommendation 12: Agencies providing child protection services should review their strategies, including training and management support, for identifying and working with maltreatment in middle class families.

Recommendation 13: 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.

Antidepressants filling therapy gap - GPs

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. New Zealand
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 to be
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 their
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 their
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 funded
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 aware
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.

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