The first national study of child abuse and neglect in Australia: prevalence, health outcomes, and burden of disease

Professors Mathews, Pacella and Dunne are leading an international team to conducting the first national study of the prevalence and effects of child maltreatment in Australia.  The $2.3 million study will be conducted from 2019-2023, and is funded by the Australian Government through the National Health and Medical Research Council Project Grant scheme.  The study has three dimensions, making it the most comprehensive national study of its kind.  It will provide the first reliable estimate of the prevalence and co-occurrence in Australia of all five forms of child maltreatment (sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and exposure to domestic violence), and other major childhood adversities. The study will also identify the location, frequency, severity and timing of these experiences, and the nature of the child’s relationship with the person who inflicted them.  Significantly, the study will also identify the major impacts on health outcomes associated with maltreatment across the lifespan.  These will cover mental health outcomes (depression, anxiety, suicidality), substance use (tobacco, alcohol and other drugs), and chronic physical health conditions (obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes).  Finally, the study will also generate an estimate of the burden of disease caused by child maltreatment.

The project has a strong focus on translation of findings to policy and practice.  The research team will engage with external stakeholders from government, non-government and clinical sectors, including the National Office for Child Safety, the new office established after the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, located in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.  Scientific findings will provide governments and policymakers with information on national public policy strategies about where, when and how to invest resources to reduce child maltreatment and respond effectively to it at an early stage.  The study will also establish benchmark data to chart trends in prevalence over time, and indicate whether public policy interventions are working.

The research team members are: Professor Ben Mathews (QUT), Professor Rosana Pacella (University of Chichester and QUT), Professor Michael Dunne (QUT), Associate Professor James Scott (The University of Queensland), Professor David Finkelhor (University of New Hampshire), Dr Franziska Meinck (University of Oxford), Professor Daryl Higgins (Australian Catholic University), Dr Holly Erskine (The University of Queensland), and Dr Hannah Thomas (The University of Queensland).  For further information, contact Professor Ben Mathews (b.mathews@qut.edu.au – 07 3138 2983 – http://staff.qut.edu.au/staff/matthewb/).


Funding / Grants

  • National Health and Medical Research Council Project Grant scheme (2019 - 2023)