• Child abuse in England and Wales 2003–2013: Newspaper reporting versus reality

      Davies, Emma; O'Leary, Erin; Reed, John; Liverpool John Moores University, UK; Swinburne University of Technology, Australia (Sage, 2015-10-15)
      This study examined how child abuse and neglect were reported in a sample of 459 newspaper articles between 2003 and 2013 in England and Wales. The results were compared with data on child abuse and neglect over the same decade. Sexual abuse was by far the most commonly reported, in both tabloid and broadsheet newspapers. Although neglect and emotional abuse are the most common causes of child protection plans in England and Wales, neglect and emotional abuse are relatively invisible in newspaper articles, as is physical abuse. Possible explanations for this disproportionate focus on sexual abuse, which has also been found in Australia and the United States, include the fact that sexual abuse cases reach the criminal courts more often than other forms of child victimisation. Although broadsheet papers were more likely than tabloid newspapers to comment on causes and solutions beyond the individual perpetrator committing a crime, the majority of articles in broadsheet papers still did not frame either the causes or the solutions in broader terms. It seems possible that the notion of the decontextualised ‘evil’ perpetrator serves to distance journalist and reader alike from the pervasiveness and pain of child abuse. The article concludes with ideas to improve the accuracy and utility of the coverage of child abuse and neglect in newspapers.