Two-thirds of Scots children experience early life adversity, study finds

Two-thirds of Scottish children experience early life adversity – such as domestic violence or parental drug misuse – according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found boys are at greatest risk, along with those from low-income households and those with younger mothers.

The most common negative experiences involved parents undergoing mental health problems or relationship break-ups, which affected around one-third.

Dr Louise Marryat said: “We know that adverse experiences in childhood are associated with physical and mental health problems in later life.

“This is the first study to assess the scale of the problem in a current population of young people in the UK.

“We hope the findings will help to explain the context of adverse childhood experiences and lead to increased support for the groups most at risk.”

Researchers looked at the incidence of seven types of adverse experience among more than 3,000 children, before the age of eight.

One in 10 were found to have faced three adverse experiences in their lifetime.

Experiences involving parents undergoing mental health problems or relationship break-ups affected about one in three.

Almost a quarter had experienced frequent physical punishment, with one in five saying they felt unloved or emotionally neglected.

Some 14% had been exposed to parental drug or alcohol misuse while one in 10 had been exposed to domestic violence.

One in 250 children had experienced a parent being sent to prison. Instances of sexual abuse were too few to be reported.

The research was based on the Growing Up in Scotland study, which tracks the lives of children from birth through their teenage years and beyond.

Academics interviewed parents and children about a wide range of experiences every one to two years.

The Growing Up in Scotland study is funded by the Scottish Government and carried out by ScotCen Social Research.

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