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The landscape of child protection research in the UK

A UK mapping review

This study, undertaken for the NSPCC, is the first comprehensive systematic search and mapping review of research undertaken in all four nations of the United Kingdom on the subject of child protection. It covers the five year timespan January, 2010 through December, 2014 to produce a mapping review on the landscape of child protection.

The research questions were:

1) How can child protection research be classified?

2) What child protection research has been published between January, 2010 and December, 2014?

a. What proportion of the published research was undertaken within academia?

b. Who undertakes child protection research in the UK?

c. In which disciplines was the research undertaken?

d. On what aspects of child protection has the research focused?

e. What research designs have been used?

f. What types of data have been used?

g. Whose perspectives have been included?

3) Who funded the research and how much money has been allocated to the research?

To answer these questions we undertook a comprehensive literature review where we mapped and categorised existing literature to determine gaps and patterns. We did not undertake quality checks on research rigour at this stage, but used a comprehensive search process with clear and replicable methods. We have provided a detailed and comprehensive portrait of the overall child protection research landscape in the UK, showing the general topography. We are not, however, claiming to have detailed every single tree and stream.

A concurrent search of more than 94 databases was used to locate the academic literature, with further additional checks against other sources to confirm completeness. Grey literature was searched primarily through the NSPCC catalogues with some adjunct searches of key organisations. A two stage screening process examined the literature against inclusion criteria that determined the literatures’ reported empirical research on child maltreatment in the UK. All included articles were coded onto an 85 field SPSS dataset. A total of 467 academic articles and 243 items of grey literature met the inclusion criteria and were coded onto the SPSS dataset, a combined total of 710. An additional search of 53 funding councils and key funders of child protection research was undertaken.

The data collected in this project represent a comprehensive map of UK child protection research in the last five years, providing a reliable evidence base to inform further academic research, child protection policy development, and the priorities of research funders. The rigour of our search strategy was tested regularly throughout the process, and the robust methodology employed by the research team allows us to appropriately address the research questions. Despite its comprehensiveness, however, it should be recognised that some child protection articles will have been missed due to the idiosyncrasies of Searcher and other individual databases used.