Study to identify prevalence of child abuse

16 Apr 2021 | 3 mins

A new national study aims to find out for the first time how many Australians have experienced child abuse.

Launched by Queensland University of Technology, the Australian Child Maltreatment Study includes a team of researchers from The University of Western Australia and abroad. 

The first national benchmark of child maltreatment in Australia, it seeks to generate Australia’s first reliable estimate of the prevalence of five forms of child abuse: sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and exposure to domestic violence. It will also examine other types of childhood abuse including bullying.

"It’s important to learn more about the prevalence and impact of child abuse to offer better protection for children"

Professor David Lawrence

The National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Government and the Australian Institute of Criminology have provided $2.8 million for the study.

Researchers are seeking 10,000 Australian participants aged 16 and over from around Australia who have experienced childhood abuse.

Professor David Lawrence from UWA’s Graduate School of Education, who will play a lead role in the research, said the study was the most comprehensive of its type in Australia.

“It’s important to learn more about the prevalence and impact of child abuse to offer better protection for children,” Professor Lawrence said.

“We know the impact of child abuse can be pervasive and long-lasting. For instance, child maltreatment is a major risk factor for mental illness and substance abuse. 

“To reduce rates of child maltreatment and better help children at risk, we need to know more about what types of abuse are occurring, when, and in what context.”

The team hopes to conduct further studies to understand how to strengthen resilience and reverse the effects of childhood abuse. Initial results will be available in 2022.

Participation involves a single telephone interview that takes about 25 minutes. The interview will consist of questions about childhood experiences and the health impact. 

For more information, people can visit the Australian Child Maltreatment Study website.

Media references

Jess Reid, UWA Media & PR Adviser, 08 6488 6876

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