Prevalence of violence against children in the United Kingdom: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Alexandra Nation*, Rosana Pacella, Claire Monks, Ben Mathews, Franziska Meinck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Violence against children can have extensive, long-term, and far-reaching adverse impacts on survivors and society. There is currently little consensus in the United Kingdom around the prevalence of violence against children: maltreatment, intimate partner violence, sexual violence, bullying, and community violence, and most existing studies focus on only a single or a few forms of violence. This study aims to produce data to highlight the current magnitude of the problem in the UK, to inform policy, drive action and allow for monitoring of progress over time.

To produce weighted prevalence estimates by violence type, as well as gender and age sub-categories, to give as full a picture as possible of the current prevalence of violence against children in the UK.

Participants and setting
The prevalence of violence against children from 23 self-report studies conducted in the United Kingdom was gathered through a systematic review.

Databases were searched from inception to 24th June 2022. Studies were reviewed systematically for appropriate data and meta-analyses were conducted to give pooled prevalence data based on a quality effects model.

The most prevalent self-reported experience of childhood violence was community violence at 27.33 % (95 % CI [9.84, 48.97]). Prevalence of bullying was also high at 22.75 % (95 % CI [13.25, 33.86]). The most prevalent forms of child maltreatment were domestic violence exposure at 11.9 % (95 % CI [6.34, 18.84]) and emotional maltreatment at 11.84 % (95 % CI [5.58, 19.89]).

National child maltreatment surveys are needed in the UK, using a comprehensive and conceptually robust approach, and valid and reliable instruments, to provide data for researchers and policymakers on the prevalence of all types of violence against children including exposure to multiple types. This allows monitoring of trends over time, can inform strategies for prevention, and can enable monitoring of future progress in reducing violence against children and its associated health and economic burden.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106518
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Early online date7 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • violence
  • children
  • abuse
  • prevalence
  • meta-analysis
  • systemic review


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