Voices of children living in households with domestic abuse, parental substance misuse and mental health issues




This report provides a quantitative analysis on the numbers of children in England living in households where the ‘toxic trio’ of factors affecting adults may be present. The ‘toxic trio’ is the interaction of:

  • Domestic violence and abuse (DV&A) within the household
  • Parental substance misuse (alcohol or drugs)
  • Parental mental health issues

We wanted to hear directly from children and give them the opportunity to talk about their experiences of living in households with mental health, parental substance misuse and domestic abuse. We spoke to children being supported by three projects (based in London, Doncaster and Hertfordshire), all set up to support children living in these households.


Reference:  CCO. (2018). "Are they shouting because of me?": Voices of children living in households with domestic abuse, parental substance misuse and mental health issues. London: CCOE




In addition to the main report, attached is Chowdry, H. (2018). Estimating the prevalence of the ‘toxic trio’: Vulnerability Technical Report 2. London: CCOE, which academics may find of interest. In it the author indicates that; There is a wide literature showing that each of these issues can have damaging consequences for the wellbeing and outcomes of children; see, for example, Wolfe et al. (2003), Manning and Gregoire (2009), Stanley and Cox (2009), Cleaver et al. (2011), Guy et al. (2014), Harold et al. (2016), and Hedges and Kenny (2018).

The ‘toxic trio’ issues – and associated responses of frontline practitioners – have been cited as a major driver of the increases on children’s services caseloads and the numbers of children being taken into care (ADCS, 2016), and have also been frequently cited as a factor in serious case reviews (Sidebotham et al., 2016). Despite this, there is very little recent and representative empirical evidence on the prevalence of these factors, especially their co-occurrence within the same household.



The post of Children’s Children's Commissioner for England was created following a recommendation made by Lord Laming in the Victoria Climbie Inquiry. The role was initially established under the Children Act 2004 which gave the Commissioner responsibility for promoting awareness of the views and interests of children. The Commissioner’s statutory remit includes understanding what children and young people think about things that affect them and encouraging decision makers to always take their best interests into account. Her unique data gathering powers and powers of entry to talk with children and gain evidence, enable her to help bring about long-term change and improvements for children, particularly the most vulnerable.

The Children and Families Act 2014 further strengthened the remit, powers and independence of the Commissioner, and gave her special responsibility for the rights of children who are in or leaving care, living away from home or receiving social care services. She also speaks for wider groups of children on non-devolved issues including immigration (for the whole of the UK) and youth justice (for England and Wales).

As well as a team of staff, the Commissioner is supported by an advisory group, an audit and risk committee and children’s groups, stakeholders and specialists.


Crown copyright material is reproduced here under the Open Government Licence for public sector information.

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