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Child abuse and neglect in the UK today

Research into the prevalence of child maltreatment in the United Kingdom

In 2000 we published the first ever UK-wide study of child maltreatment (Cawson et al, 2000). Ten years later we carried out a much larger study to give us a more up-to-date picture of what children were experiencing.

In 2009 we interviewed over 6,000 young adults, teenagers, children and parents of younger children. Our report looks at their experiences of abuse and neglect. It examines the impact of abuse and highlights that many children experiencing abuse by their parents or carers also experience other forms of abuse from other people.

Although these findings remain the most robust UK-wide research-based indication of the prevalence of child abuse and neglect available, they are increasingly dated. That's why we welcome the ONS’s current work, scoping the feasibility of a new survey to measure the current scale and nature of child abuse and neglect (ONS, 2019).

Authors: Lorraine Radford, Susana Corral, Christine Bradley, Helen Fisher, Claire Bassett, Nick Howat and Stephan Collishaw
Published: 2011

Child abuse and neglect in the UK today
Download the report (PDF)

Key findings

A substantial minority of children experience severe maltreatment and abuse at home, in school, in the community, from adults and from peers.

  • 1 in 5 children have experienced severe maltreatment
  • Children abused by parents or carers are almost 3 times more likely to also witness family violence
  • 1 in 3 children sexually abused by an adult didn’t tell anyone at the time
  • All types of abuse and neglect are associated with poorer mental health

Strong associations were found between maltreatment, sexual abuse, physical violence, and poorer emotional wellbeing, including self-harm and suicidal thoughts.


Please cite as: Radford, L. et al. (2011) Child abuse and neglect in the UK today. London: NSPCC.


Cawson, P. et al (2000) Child maltreatment in the United Kingdom: a study of the prevalence of child abuse and neglect. London: NSPCC.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) (2019) Improving crime statistics for England and Wales: progress update July 2019. [Newport]: Office for National Statistics (ONS).