Credit: University of Chichester
- Project is the first nationwide study of prevalence of child maltreatment in Australia
- Damage caused by maltreatment in childhood continues into adulthood
- Findings from the study will provide evidence for public health services around the world to enhance prevention and care
A University of Chichester academic is the lead chief investigator on a successful bid for $2.3 million from the Australian government, to carry out the first nationwide study of the prevalence of child maltreatment in Australia.
Dr Rosana Pacella, who is Head of Research at the University of Chichester, is part of an international research team who will carry out the study.
There are five forms of child maltreatment including physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect and exposure to domestic violence. Maltreatment in childhood has been shown to have lasting, lifelong impacts on health, development and function.
There are critical knowledge gaps in Australia concerning the prevalence of child maltreatment, the co-occurrence of different types (multi-type maltreatment), children at highest risk, and the effects of multiple forms of maltreatment on health. These evidence gaps prevent the development of rigorous public health responses to reduce the lifelong disease burden resulting from child maltreatment.
There are three main ways in which this study makes a unique contribution with extensive impact. Firstly, data collected from adults of all ages will reveal the prevalence of all five forms of maltreatment and the change in risk over time, and will indicate the extent to which associations with physical and mental health problems persist through the lifespan.
Secondly, data from adolescents and young adults aged 16-24 years will generate up-to-date estimates of maltreatment, enable monitoring of trends through future research with groups of this age, ultimately informing public health interventions.
Thirdly, the results from this study will further our understanding of the co-occurrence of multiple forms of child maltreatment and impact on the burden of disease. It is believed that the results of the study will create global interest and drive further research in this area.
The study is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia and, as well as the University of Chichester, it includes researchers from the Queensland University of Technology, the University of Queensland, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Oxford, the Australian Catholic University and the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research.
Commenting on the funding for the project, Dr Pacella said: “This is a significant and novel research project in the area, the outcomes of which will benefit and protect vulnerable children. We are confident that our findings will provide invaluable evidence to guide strategies for targeted prevention and health service responses to child maltreatment not just in Australia but also around the world.”