New research identifies need for a national study into prevalence of child maltreatment

22 September 2016

Research conducted for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has considered the feasibility and need for a comprehensive study into the prevalence of child maltreatment in Australia.

Australia is one of the few developed countries that does not collect reliable, nationally representative prevalence data on child sexual abuse.

In response to this knowledge gap, the Royal Commission appointed a group of researchers across Australia to investigate the research design, methodology, cost and governance structures of studies into the prevalence of child maltreatment in Australia, including the prevalence of institutional sexual abuse.

As part of their work, the research team conducted a systematic literature review examining best practice design of prevalence studies and a review of existing Australian surveys and data collections. They also consulted with international experts in the field.

Royal Commission Acting Chief Executive Officer Marianne Christmann said such little work had been done to measure the extent of child maltreatment in Australia that this was the first time that the feasibility of such a study had been examined.

"This research identifies a significant knowledge gap about the extent of maltreatment, and in particular, how this varies among different groups within the general population," Ms Christmann said.

"It also shows the importance of developing a baseline for measuring the effectiveness of future policies and programs to combat child abuse and to better understand how previous policies have affected different groups of children so we can better guide prevention and response efforts."

The Royal Commission will consider the findings of this research in determining its recommendations in relation to a future study into the prevalence of child maltreatment in Australia.

Scoping study for research into the prevalence of child abuse in Australia was conducted by the Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC) at the University of NSW, Queensland University of Technology (QUT), the Australian Centre for Child Protection (ACCP) at University of South Australia, and the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS).

Read the full report.

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