Children living in families facing adversity

Last updated: 04 Sep 2018 Topics: Domestic abuse Substance misuse Mental health

NSPCC helpline contacts and Childline counselling sessions about domestic abuse, parental substance misuse and parental mental health problems

One of our goals is to prevent child abuse in families facing adversity. This is when families experience domestic abuse, substance misuse and/or mental health problems.

Although many parents or carers facing adversity are able to provide safe and loving care for their family, these challenges can affect children’s wellbeing and increase the risk of abuse and neglect.

To help adults support children living in families facing adversity, this report shares the concerns being raised in helpline contacts and Childline counselling sessions. It looks at how living in a family facing adversity affects children’s wellbeing, how children get support and highlights what can be done to help them get back on track.

Authors: NSPCC
Published: 2018


Key findings

  • Young people living in families facing adversity, where parents are experiencing domestic abuse, substance misuse and/or mental health problems, can be at risk of abuse and neglect.
  • When families are experiencing more than one adversity, this can have a cumulative effect on children’s welfare.
  • Living in a family that’s facing adversity has an impact on young people’s wellbeing.
  • Effects can include:
    • mental health problems
    • poor performance at school
    • self-harm
    • suicidal thoughts and feelings
    • struggling to build and maintain relationships with friends or partners.
  • Some young people living in families facing adversity take on caring responsibilities for themselves, their siblings, and/or their parents. However many do not see themselves as young carers, and are unaware of the support available to them.
  • Young people living in families facing adversity can struggle to talk to their parents about how things are affecting them.
  • Young people living in families facing adversity can experience difficulties getting the support they need.
  • Many young people living in families facing adversity are reluctant to tell others about their concerns. They may worry:
    • about themselves or their siblings being taken into care
    • that their parents will be unable to cope if the family is separated
    • that their parents’ problems will get worse if the family is no longer together.

Quotes

“I am becoming increasingly concerned about my neighbours’ ability to care for their children. Just the other day I saw them arguing and screaming hurtful things at each other directly in front of their children. They weren’t paying any attention to what their child was doing and the child almost walked into a busy road.
Neighbour
“My parents are caught up in drink and drugs. It’s pretty bad at home and they’ve been violent towards me for years. I really want to leave. I’m scared of telling anyone about what’s happening because I don’t want them to go to prison and I don’t want to go into care, I just want to get out of this situation.”
Boy, 16
“My dad has a drug and alcohol problem. He makes me sleep with other men so he can get drugs. He’s also raped me before by putting drugs in my drink. I don’t have anywhere else to go.”
Girl, 15
“Since my parents got divorced I have been looking after my dad and brother. My dad is unable to work and sometimes doesn’t get out of bed all day. I get really stressed about my school work as I’m only able to do it late at night, but then I get really tired as I haven’t had enough sleep. Sometimes I fall asleep in class. It’s really embarrassing but I can’t help it.”
Girl, 13

Citation 

NSPCC (2018) Children living in families facing adversity: NSPCC helplines report. London: NSPCC.