Policy Briefing: Preventing Violence Against Children
Summary of key points
Violence affects the daily lives of many children living in Scotland.
The impacts of violence upon children include poor health, chronic
fear and anxiety, lower self-esteem, and unhappiness, amongst
CHILDREN 1ST considers that these four actions would significantly
help to prevent violence affecting the lives of many children in
1. a social marketing campaign to reduce parental alcohol misuse;
2. equal protection from assault for children in Scots’ Law, together
with increasing use of non-violent parenting approaches;
3. all adults taking responsibility for addressing bullying behaviour
4. resourcing of preventative services for under 3 year olds.
You can support the campaign to Prevent Violence Against Children.
Children in every community in Scotland are living with violence today. Some
are struggling to cope with sexual abuse; some with being physically hit or
verbally pulled-apart; some are facing bullying and aggression in the
playground; others are scared to go home for fear of what might happen.
CHILDREN 1ST has been speaking out on behalf of these vulnerable children
for over 125 years. We believe that far more can, and must, be done to
prevent the violence that children are living with everyday.
How many of Scotland’s children are affected by violence in their daily
On 31 March 2010, 1965 children living in Scotland were at such
significant risk of physical, emotional or sexual abuse that they needed
a multi-agency plan for their protection. There are likely to be many
more that never come to the attention of statutory authorities1.
ChildLine receives an average of more than two calls per hour about
physical abuse, every hour of the year. Physical abuse is consistently
Scottish Government Child Protection statistics
amongst the top five issues that children have called ChildLine
Scotland about for almost 2 decades2.
Half of 13-15 year olds in the Scottish Crime Survey said that they had
been a victim of at least one unpleasant incident or crime during the
past year. The most common offence experienced was harassment
(22%), bullying (19%), and then assault (19%).3
11% of parents of 11 year olds admit hitting them at least once a
week.4 One in six British parents report hitting children with
implements such as slippers, belts or wooden spoons5.
In about half of all domestic violence situations, the children are also
being directly abused themselves6.
A survey of young adults found that 7% had experienced serious
physical abuse, 1% had experienced sexual abuse and 6% had
experienced emotional abuse by their parents or carers7.
What are the impacts of violence upon children?
All forms of violence can seriously affect a child’s health, happiness and
sense of security. We know from CHILDREN 1ST services for children and
their families, that experiencing violence in their daily lives can lead to
children: living with chronic fear and anxiety; becoming isolated; living with
continual unhappiness; playing truant from school; suffering depression and
other mental health problems; reacting through negative behaviour; family
conflict; drug and alcohol misuse; and low self-esteem, amongst many other
effects. Different children learn to cope in different ways, but for many,
suffering from bullying, abuse or aggression steals their childhood happiness,
and has long-lasting impacts on into their adulthood.
What more can be done to prevent violence against Scotland’s children?
There are several key changes that would help to prevent violence against our
children and young people:
1. A social marketing campaign to reduce parental alcohol misuse
Children are bearing the brunt of Scotland’s negative culture around alcohol.
We know that an estimated 80,000 children in Scotland are living with parental
alcohol misuse8 and 30% of UK children live with at least one binge-drinking
parent9. This harmful drinking by parents is making children less safe – for
example, the vast majority of children who talk to ChildLine in Scotland about
physical abuse talk about the violence happening when the parent is drunk or
ChildLine in Scotland 2007-08, ChildLine Casenotes: Physical Abuse
Young people and crime in Scotland: Findings from the 2000 Crime Survey
Children are unbeatable (2004). Briefing six:
research review. London: The Children Are
Leach, Penelope (1999) The physical punishment of children: some input from research.
Scottish Women’s Aid
Cawson, P. et al (2000) Child Maltreatment in the United Kingdom: a study of the prevalence of child
abuse and neglect, London: NSPCC.
As estimated by Scottish Government in PQ S3W-4416, 1st Oct 2007
Action on Addiction 2009
has been drinking10. It is estimated that alcohol plays a part in 15-30% of
cases of child abuse and neglect11.
That is why CHILDREN 1ST believe that it should be socially unacceptable to
be ‘drunk in charge of a child’, but we know that this will only happen when all
parents are encouraged to consider the impact of their drinking upon their
child. That is why we want to see a social marketing campaign aimed at all
parents around the impact of alcohol misuse upon their children. Such a
campaign had good results in Finland, and we know that it could make a big
We also want to see better support for children who are living with parental
alcohol misuse, including training for school staff, and easily accessible
support services for children and young people. They should never have to
2. Equal protection from assault for children, together with
increasing use of non-violent parenting approaches
The UK is one of only 5 countries in the EU where children are not fully
protected by the law from violence within their home. The urgent need to
address this lack of protection has been highlighted repeatedly by the UN
Committee on the Rights of the Child. CHILDREN 1ST believe that the Scottish
Parliament should now give children equal protection from assault in Scots’
Law. We also believe that parents need far more support and information to
help them to find alternative ways of dealing with their child’s behaviour, rather
than hitting them, and so that they feel more confident in their important role.
3. All adults taking responsibility for addressing bullying behaviour
Bullying is not a ‘normal’ part of growing-up. CHILDREN 1ST believes bullying
behaviour forms part of a culture of violence in Scotland that is unacceptable
and never necessary. More information and support for all adults, including for
parents and professionals, is required to enable them to identify, prevent and
resolve all forms of bullying behaviour that impact children and young people.
4. Resourcing preventative services in the early years
We know that much of the violence that children face in their lives could be
prevented if someone had only stepped in to help earlier. Currently in
Scotland, much of our attention and resources are focused upon crisis
intervention, taking children into care or trying to find solutions for them when
they have already been harmed by violence – for example, only 4% of total
health spending in Scotland is currently spent upon prevention12. Resource is
most often focused later in a child’s life, but research and our experience tells
us that the biggest difference can be made when the child is -9 months to 3
years old – in fact, every £1 spent in a child’s early years saves £7 from being
spent later in their life.
ChildLine in Scotland & SHAAP (2010) Untold Damage
Alcohol Concern (2008) Keeping it in the Family: Growing up with parents who misuse alcohol;
Institute of Alcohol Studies (2006) Alcohol in Europe: a public health perspective
Scottish Parliament Finance Committee – Inquiry into Preventative Spending, October 2010
CHILDREN 1ST knows from our work that a combination of accessible
universal support for parents through for example, Health Visitors, as well as
targeted support for families facing particular difficulties such as drug misuse
or mental health issues, can make children’s lives safer.
Why should I support the campaign to Prevent Violence Against
So we know that violence is a big problem for far too many children living in
Scotland, and as outlined above, we know some of the very practical steps
that could help to prevent this violence. Through your support for this
campaign, we can send the clear message, including to politicians and policy-
makers, that preventing violence against children must be a top priority.
Preventing Violence Against Children pledge
'Far too many children in Scotland experience violence in their homes
and communities. I believe that violence against children and young
people is unjustifiable, unacceptable, and preventable. I call on
everyone in Scotland, including the Scottish Government, to do all that
they can to prevent all forms of violence against children and young
If you agree with this statement, then give your support by:
filling in a campaign postcard and returning it to the FREEPOST
emailing your name to email@example.com , or by
going to www.children1st.org.uk
For more information about this briefing, please contact:
Mhairi Snowden, Policy Officer
CHILDREN 1ST, 83 Whitehouse Loan, Edinburgh EH9 1AT
T: 0131 446 3979