Neglect and abuse in childhood could have long-term economic consequences

People who suffer neglect and abuse in childhood are much more likely to have time off work due to long-term sickness and less likely to own their own homes when they reach middle age than their peers, according to new research undertaken at UCL.

The study, which is published in U.S. journal Pediatrics and undertaken as part of the Public Health Research Consortium, showed that the potential socioeconomic impact of child neglect and abuse may persist for decades.

The researchers found that neglected children often had worse reading and mathematics skills in adolescence than their peers, which could hamper their ability to find work and progress in the job market.

In response, Dr Geoff Debelle, Child Protection Officer for the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said:

“This important piece of research emphasises the serious impact abuse and neglect in childhood can have on an individual and sadly, as the author to this paper points out, children who face socioeconomic disadvantage are more likely to have children themselves who face the same terrible situation.

“Prevention and early detection of abuse and neglect in childhood is key if we are to break this vicious cycle – access to additional training for all health professionals will play a crucial role.

“However, whilst training opportunities will help give healthcare workers the confidence to raise concerns with officials earlier, the benefit will be lost if vital services like health visiting services are not protected from funding cuts.

“Additionally, schools have a role to play in helping children understand the difference between healthy and abusive relationships. That’s why the RCPCH has long called for Person Social Health Education (PSHE) to be compulsory in all schools.”