Talk to us

CathNews, the most frequently visited Catholic website in Australia, is your daily news service featuring Catholics and Catholicism from home and around the world, Mass on Demand and on line, prayer, meditation, reflections, opinion, and reviews. And, what's more - it's free!

Abused or neglected children are more likely to experience multiple types of maltreatment, the study shows. (Bigstock)

Australian-first research into the prevalence of childhood maltreatment has revealed almost two-thirds of children who experience any child abuse or neglect have been subjected to more than one type. Source: ACU.

Children are more likely to experience multiple types of maltreatment including physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and exposure to domestic violence, than a single type of maltreatment, figures from the Australian Child Maltreatment Study (ACMS) released today show.

Daryl Higgins, director of Australian Catholic University’s Institute of Child Protection Studies, said the research found 39.4 per cent of Australians experienced multiple types of child maltreatment compared with a single type of maltreatment (22.8 per cent) or no child abuse and neglect (37.8 per cent).

Almost a quarter experienced between three to five different forms, with 3.5 per cent suffering all five types.

“Experiencing a single type is the atypical experience. Children are more likely to experience nothing or multiple types,” Professor Higgins, who led the ACMS research into multi-type maltreatment, said.

“This is a very disturbing finding. We knew the experiences of multi-type maltreatment would be high, but we didn’t expect it to be as strong as it is.”

Professor Higgins said the ACMS study of 8500 Australians, which revealed 62.2 per cent of Australians aged over 16 experienced child maltreatment, showed girls were at greater risk of multiple types of abuse and neglect (43.2 per cent) compared with boys (34.9 per cent). Girls were almost twice as likely to experience four or five types.

Exposure to domestic violence was the most frequent type of maltreatment that appeared in combination with other forms of child abuse and neglect. It was prevalent in the six most common combinations of multi-type maltreatment experienced by 31.2 per cent of Australians.

The research showed parental separation, family mental illness, family substance abuse problems, and family economic hardship doubled the risk of multi-type maltreatment.

Experiencing more than one type of child abuse and neglect was associated with higher rates of mental health disorders and health risk behaviours, particularly cannabis dependence, self-harm, and suicide attempts.

Professor Higgins said the findings demanded immediate attention to better safeguard children and reduce these poor health outcomes across life.


Australian children suffering multiple types of abuse and neglect putting them at serious physical and mental risk – landmark study (ACU)


Around 62 per cent of Australians report being abused and neglected in childhood, major study finds (ABC News)

Child maltreatment national study – the shocking findings released (The Catholic Leader)

Two-thirds of all Australians suffered childhood maltreatment, new ACU study shows (The Catholic Weekly)