This briefing looks at what data and statistics are available about child deaths due to abuse or neglect.
Official measures are likely to be underestimations of the number of children who die due to abuse or neglect for a number of reasons, including:
- the legal complexity of proof of homicide
- misdiagnosed cause of death
- abuse not being the immediate cause of death, but being a contributing factor
- cause of death remaining unknown or unexplained.
However, based on the number of child homicides recorded by the police each year, we know that, on average, at least one child is killed a week in the UK.
Findings from the data
- In the last five years there was an average of 62 child deaths a year by assault or undetermined intent in the UK.
- Children under the age of one are the most likely age group to be killed by another person, followed by 16- to 24-year-olds.
- Child homicides are most commonly caused by the child’s parent or step-parent; whilst adolescent homicides are most commonly caused by a stranger, friend or acquaintance. https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/research-resources/statistics-briefings/child-deaths-abuse-neglect
Today sees the launch of new resources to help bridge the gap between neuroscience and frontline practice.
An animation, guidebook and set of videos about childhood trauma and brain development have been created by University College London (UCL) in a project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The resources, which are freely available, can be accessed here.
The resources are based on research, looking at how children’s brains adapt to abusive or neglectful environments in ways that help in the short term but increase risk of mental health problems in the future.
“We hope that a greater understanding of neuroscience research can help frontline professionals and carers to reframe their understanding of childhood trauma – providing a new lens through which to understand – and help – the children in their care.”
Eamon McCrory, Professor of Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology, UCL https://learning.nspcc.org.uk/news/2020/september/making-neuroscience-more-accessible
Everyone experiences stress, and learning how to cope with stresses is an important part of child brain development (Shonkoff et al, 2014).
Some stress can be ‘positive’, such as solving problems or preparing for an exam. With adult or peer support, these experiences can help children develop coping and concentration skills that will help in later life.
Other stresses can be ‘tolerable’. For example, children are usually able to cope with bereavement if they have the right ‘buffers’ or support from parents, carers, friends and family.
But exposure to prolonged or repeated adverse situations, such as child abuse and neglect, can cause ‘toxic stress’: an overactive stress response in children where they start to feel more stressed more often and for longer periods, which can disrupt the building of healthy brain architecture (Shonkoff et al, 2014).
This can affect children’s physical and cognitive development, including:
- a weakened immune system
- problems with memory and learning
- a reduced ability to control one’s moods or emotions
- slower information processing
(Crowley, 2017; Shonkoff et al, 2014).
Our brains develop from before birth and into adulthood (Siegel and Bryson, 2012). But there are key ‘sensitive periods’ during early childhood and adolescence where children and young people’s brains are more malleable, making them more susceptible to positive or negative experiences (Shonkoff et al, 2008).
What happens during a child or young person’s life in these periods can have a significant effect on a child’s brain development.
Positive experiences throughout childhood help to build healthy brains. Conversely, childhood trauma and abuse can harm a child’s brain development. However, positive experiences, caring relationships and support services can reduce the harmful effects of negative experiences and help a child’s brain continue to develop in a healthy manner (Shonkoff et al, 2015).
Although it’s beneficial to provide children with positive experiences as early as possible, our brains always have the potential to change and grow. It’s never too late to give a child or young person positive brain building experiences.
> Find out more about the adolescent brain in our How safe are our children? report for 2020
Who is this course for?
This course is designed for anyone who works with children and families, who is looking to inform their practice by learning about child brain development and a trauma-sensitive approach to working with families.
It will be particularly useful for anyone involved in supporting families facing adversity and/or children who have experienced abuse, neglect or other adverse childhood experiences.
Organisations who have taken this training session include:
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Continue reading “CASPAR”
How disclosure happens
Children and young people may disclose abuse in a variety of ways, including:
- directly– making specific verbal statements about what’s happened to them
- indirectly – making ambiguous verbal statements which suggest something is wrong
- behaviourally – displaying behaviour that signals something is wrong (this may or may not be deliberate)
- non-verbally – writing letters, drawing pictures or trying to communicate in other ways.
Children and young people may not always be aware that they are disclosing abuse through their actions and behaviour.
Sometimes children and young people make partial disclosures of abuse. This means they give some details about what they’ve experienced, but not the whole picture. They may withhold some information because they:
- are afraid they will get in trouble with or upset their family
- want to deflect blame in case of family difficulties as a result of the disclosure
- feel ashamed and/or guilty
- need to protect themselves from having to relive traumatic events.
When children do speak out it is often many years after the abuse has taken place (McElvaney, 2015). Continue reading “Recognising and responding to abuse”
Children can experience more than one type of abuse which can have serious and long-lasting impacts on their lives. Find out about the different types of child abuse, how to recognise the signs in children and young people and how people who work with children, parents and carers can prevent and respond to it. Continue reading “Child abuse and neglect”
A free online safeguarding tool
It can be challenging to work out whether your organisation is doing enough to keep children safe. We’ve developed a tool to help you assess what you’re already doing well, and what you need to improve to make sure all the children who come into contact with your organisation are protected.
The safeguarding self-assessment tool is designed to be used alongside our Safeguarding standards. It includes a set of simple questions for each standard, as well as resources that you can use to create a safer culture within your organisation. Continue reading “Safeguarding checklist”