Last updated: 04.01.16

Strong association found between poverty, child abuse and neglect

Over the past 25 years, one in four children have been living in families in poverty at any one time, according to a recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Research revealed that here is a strong association between family poverty and a child?s chance of suffering child abuse or neglect. Adverse events in childhood, including abuse and neglect, are associated with a negative effect on adult economic circumstances.

In 2012-13, more than 60,000 children were placed on a child protection register, according to the NSPCC.

The report revealed that there is a strong association between families? socio-economic circumstances and the chances that their children will experience child abuse and neglect (CAN). Evidence of this is found repeatedly across developed countries.

However, there is not a straightforward divide between families in poverty and those which are not, which corresponds with evidence about inequities in child health and education. The greater the economic hardship, the higher the likelihood and severity of CAN.

Evidence suggests that direct and indirect impacts of poverty also interact with other factors affecting parenting to increase or reduce the chances of CAN.

These include parent capacity, family capacity for investment, negative adult behaviours, positive adult and child behaviours, and external neighbourhood factors.

Poverty increases the risk of mental ill-health, and mental ill-health increases the likelihood of poverty. Parental substance use, accompanied by poverty is more likely to lead to contact with child protection services than substance use in a position of affluence.

Authors of the report found that lessening family poverty is likely to have a positive effect on reducing both the extent and severity of CAN in childhood.

Policies to reduce poverty require an approach which addresses the underlying causes as well as symptoms, and also addresses the multiple impacts of poverty on family life.


Did you know we have worked with various safeguarding boards to create online safeguarding training in Child Abuse and Neglect. Click here to find out more.