Sharp rise in reports of children suffering emotional abuse

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:

Reports of children being emotionally abused have seen an alarming spike during the past seven years according to the NSPCC’s annual child protection report.

Since 2009/10, the number of annual contacts to the charity’s helpline from people concerned about children being emotionally abused has risen from 3,341 to 10,009.

The NSPCC, fearing that the full scale of the problem could be much greater, is now urging the government to commission a nationwide investigation into the issue. The last such study took place in 2009.

Staff on the NSPCC’s helpline have been told of parents threatening children with extreme violence, blaming them for issues such as unemployment or money problems, and telling their children that they hate them.

An NSPCC statement said: “Children who are emotionally abused may also be experiencing or be at risk of another type of abuse or neglect. The NSPCC helpline has heard from people who were repeatedly worried that the emotional abuse they witnessed would turn into physical abuse.

“Helpline practitioners identified three common themes raised by callers concerned that a child was being emotionally abused. These included domestic violence, alcohol or substance abuse, and mental health issues.”

According to the NSPCC, a child who is suffering from abuse of any kind might display the following signs. They might:

  • Be overly-affectionate towards strangers or people they haven’t known for very long.
  • Lack confidence or become wary or anxious.
  • Be aggressive or nasty towards other children and/or animals.
  • Struggle to control strong emotions or have extreme outbursts.
  • Lack social skills or have few, if any, friends.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “Hearing reports from our helpline about parents or carers who are consistently verbally assaulting, bullying, isolating or humiliating their children is devastating. The huge increase in people recognising and reporting emotional abuse to our helpline indicates people are willing to take action, but the disturbing truth is that the UK has no idea how many other children are suffering from emotional abuse or in fact, any type of abuse.

“We urgently need government to step in now, before another eight years go by, and commission a study that gives us the clearest possible picture of the extent of child abuse and neglect in the UK.”

  • Any adult worried about a child can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000.
  • The report, How Safe are Our Children, can be found at

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