Objectives: To measure the prevalence of maltreatment and other types of victimization among children, young people, and young adults in the UK; to explore the risks of other types of victimization among maltreated children and young people at different ages; using standardized scores from self-report measures, to assess the emotional wellbeing of maltreated children, young people, and young adults taking into account other types of childhood victimization, different perpetrators, non-victimization adversities and variables known to influence mental health.
Methods: A random UK representative sample of 2,160 parents and caregivers, 2,275 children and young people, and 1,761 young adults completed computer-assisted self-interviews. Interviews included assessment of a wide range of childhood victimization experiences and measures of impact on mental health.
Results: 2.5% of children aged under 11 years and 6% of young people aged 11-17 years had 1 or more experiences of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, or neglect by a parent or caregiver in the past year, and 8.9% of children under 11 years, 21.9% of young people aged 11-17 years, and 24.5% of young adults had experienced this at least once during childhood. High rates of sexual victimization were also found; 7.2% of females aged 11-17 and 18.6% of females aged 18-24 reported childhood experiences of sexual victimization by any adult or peer that involved physical contact (from sexual touching to rape). Victimization experiences accumulated with age and overlapped. Children who experienced maltreatment from a parent or caregiver were more likely than those not maltreated to be exposed to other forms of victimization, to experience non-victimization adversity, a high level of polyvictimization, and to have higher levels of trauma symptoms.
Conclusions: The past year maltreatment rates for children under age 18 were 7-17 times greater than official rates of substantiated child maltreatment in the UK. Professionals working with children and young people in all settings should be alert to the overlapping and age-related differences in experiences of childhood victimization to better identify child maltreatment and prevent the accumulative impact of different victimizations upon children's mental health.
Keywords: Child maltreatment; Child victimization; Polyvictimization; Prevalence of child abuse; Sexual abuse.
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