The Prevalence of Four Types of Childhood Maltreatment in Denmark

Mogens N Christoffersena, Cherie Armourb, *, Mathias Lasgaardc, Tonny E Andersenc , Ask Elklitc
a The Danish National Centre for Social Research, Denmark
b Department of Psychology, University of Ulster, Coleraine, Northern Ireland
c National Centre for Psychotraumatology, University of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55, DK-5230 Odense M, Denmark

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© Christoffersen et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Psychology, University of Ulster, Coleraine, BT52 1SA, Northern Ireland; Tel: 0044 (0)2870123374; E-mail:



To estimate the prevalence of four types of childhood maltreatment in Denmark while taking into considerations how each of the types of maltreatment vary as a function of gender or child-protection status.


Data were collected from a Danish national study conducted by The Danish National Centre for Social Research in 2008 and 2009. The study used a stratified random probability sample of young people aged 24 years. A sample of 4718 young adults were randomly selected by Statistics Denmark using the total birth cohort of all children born in 1984. The response rate was 63% leaving a total effective sample size of 2980. A structured residential or telephone interview enquired about a range of respondents maltreatment experiences.


Maltreatment is experienced by a significant proportion of Danish children. The reported prevalence rates were; physical neglect (3.0%), emotional abuse (5.2%), physical abuse (5.4%) and sexual abuse (3.4%). All trauma types were experienced by a greater percentage of females compared to males with the exception of physical abuse and all trauma types were experienced by a greater percentage of children given child-protection status.


Female children and children who are given child protection status are those most at risk for experiencing maltreatment in Denmark. However, variability in prevalence rates of maltreatment across studies is problematic. Methodological variations and variation in abuse definitions may be partly attributable.

Keywords: : Emotional Abuse, Epidemiology, Physical Abuse, Physical Neglect, Sexual Abuse.