‘Children who have experienced domestic abuse must have better support’, says BMA

by BMA media team

Press release from the BMA.

Location: England
Published: Wednesday 29 June 2022

Representatives at the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting in Brighton have today backed a motion1 calling for the Government to urgently improve services for children and adults who have experienced adverse childhood experiences.

Speaking after the debate, Dr David Strain, BMA chair board of science, said:
“Domestic abuse and violence in the family during a child’s life can have devastating long-term consequences. The foundations of good health start with a good childhood and as an Association we have a long-standing interest in this area. In childhood the health impact of adverse experiences may include: conduct disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder, while in adulthood it may lead to depression, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, sexual dysfunction,
personality disorder, dissociative disorder or substance misuse2,3. With at least one in three diagnosed mental health conditions in adulthood known to directly relate to adversity in childhood4, doctors are rightly concerned about the impact of adversity in childhood and lack of support services available.

“In our report Supporting a Healthy Childhood, we called for a cross-government ‘healthy childhood strategy’ to be developed, supported with coordinated investment in services so that child health is prioritised across government. This would give children a better chance of having a healthy childhood, something which has been severely affected recently by cuts to local authority children’s services and public health budgets.

“The Government must listen to doctors working on the ground, who are seeing day to day the impact of cuts to these public services on children’s health and wellbeing. It must re-prioritise child health and give our children the healthy start in life they deserve, helping to secure a healthy future for the whole country.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

1. The full wording of the motion is as below:

Motion 77
Motion by NORTH EAST REGIONAL COUNCIL: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
and trauma have profound negative effects on physical and mental health. Recent
Office for National Statistics reports highlight one in five adults in England and Wales
experienced abuse before aged 16 years old, and that nearly 75% of children on the
child protection register reside in households where domestic abuse occurs. Failure to
recognise and tackle these issues contributes to their continuation into the next
generation. That this meeting calls for:-
i) mandatory provision of regularly updated adult and child safeguarding training
for all health and social care practitioners and students;
ii) increased provision of safe houses for survivors of domestic abuse, their children,
and their pets;
iii) integrative care pathways to be in place to support children exposed to early life
adversity transitioning into adulthood;
iv) a collaborative approach to be fostered between services to ensure that children
and adults who have experienced ACEs are adequately supported with their health and
social care needs;
v) increased teaching in schools, so that children are aware of the signs of domestic
abuse, exploitation, and grooming, and that they can safely report concerns to
teachers, health and social care professionals, and the police.

2. Kessler RC, McLaughlin KA, Greif Green J et al. (2010) Childhood adversities and adult psychopathology in the WHO World Mental Health Surveys. British Journal Psychiatry 197: 378–85.
3. Read J, Bentall RP and Fosse R. (2009) Time to abandon the bio model of psychosis: exploring the epigenetic and psychological mechanisms by which adverse life events lead to psychotic symptoms. Epidemiolocal Psychiatry Society 18: 299–310.
4. Young Minds (2016) Beyond Adversity: Addressing the mental health needs of young people who face complexity and adversity in their lives. Young Minds