Study into life-long impact of child abuse wins national acclaim
Scooping the award for the People’s Choice category, the paper co-produced by Professor Mark Bellis of Public Health Wales and Bangor University, and Liverpool John Moores University analysed ONS data from the England and Wales’ crime survey to reach their conclusions.
The ONS gives permission to just a few hundred research projects to access their secure data to deliver a public benefit to the UK.
The study found that adults who experienced one form of abuse as children were over twice as likely to report physical assault in the past year, and three times as likely to have experienced intimate personal violence and/or sexual violence.
Moreover, those children who suffered multiple types of violence were up to seven times more likely to be victims of violence as adults.
Professor Mark Bellis, Director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre on Investment for Health and Wellbeing, Public Health Wales, and an academic at Bangor University, said:
“Sadly, far too many people are personally familiar with how even a single violent event can harm their health and well-being as well as the long-lasting impacts it can have on their local communities.
“A safe and secure childhood is fundamental right for every child and one that substantially increases their chances of experiencing a more health, more prosperous and violence free life. Stopping violence is not just a matter for criminal justice but should be a public health priority motivating all aspects of society to intervene at the earliest possible opportunity and prevent the maltreatment of children and the tragic consequences that often follow throughout their lives.”
Interpersonal violence – that is to say between citizens – is estimated to cost the nation up to £70 billion, including the physical and emotional harms incurred by victims, lost output and productivity NHS, police, social services, housing and victim services.
Findings from the study demonstrated strong associations between childhood abuse revictimisation in adulthood; past year physical assault, and, intimate partner violence and sexual violence victimisation since the age of 16.
The study also demonstrated a cumulative impact of child abuse on risk of violence revictimization, with those who experienced one form of abuse over twice as likely to report physical assault in the past year, and three times as likely to have experienced intimate partner violence and/or sexual violence since age 16 years.
Crucially, individuals who experienced multiple types of abuse were three, six and seven times more likely than those who experienced no abuse to have experienced physical, intimate partner or sexual violence respectively.
Victimisation can 'last a lifetime'
“With adult victimisation likely to compound the detrimental effects of childhood abuse, there is a compelling case for focusing public health efforts on preventing and mitigating the impacts of childhood abuse,” stated co-author Professor Zara Quigg of Liverpool John Moores University.
“Such efforts will not only reduce risk of revictimisation, which can last a lifetime, but given that exposure to such violence also represents adversities for the next generation, it represents a crucial means of disrupting intergenerational cycles of violence.”
"There is a compelling case for focusing public health efforts on preventing and mitigating the impacts of childhood abuse" - Professor Zara Quigg, LJMU
The team used the 2015/16 Crime Survey as it is the first to include questions covering on psychological, physical and sexual abuse as a child and domestic violence or abuse in the home. They assessed interviews with 21,845 household residents of adults aged 16 to 59.
“This presented us with a unique opportunity to use a nationally representative sample to retrospectively examine associations between child abuse and future violence victimisation experienced as an adult,” explained lead author Nadia Butler.
Publication date: 25 October 2021