Most child maltreatment occurs within the context of high risk families. There are ethical, economic and ecological reasons why physical abuse in such families should be a major concern. Physical abuse is a significant issue throughout the UK. Yet, while neglect and other forms of abuse are receiving focused attention, physical abuse may languish under the misconceptions that it is no longer a problem, is addressed elsewhere, or is just too overwhelming an issue. The physical abuse of children can involve regular, violent treatment at the hands of parents or carers over a number of years. Its physical effects may last for days and may result in actual physical injury.
It is not accidental. Although physical abuse can occur in any family, it is prevalent in particular sectors of society, where families may be vulnerable to a combination of complex risk factors such as domestic abuse, alcohol and drug (mis)use, and mental health issues. These factors are present in 34% of Serious Case Reviews (SCRs). The authors provide an increased understanding of risk, analysis, impact, learning and the current landscape of service delivery in relation to the physical abuse of children living in high risk families for professional, postgraduate and policy-making audiences.