Parental Factors The Toxic Trio

Since 2003 a research team has undertaken an analysis of serious case reviews in England,

The aim of the analysis was to provide evidence of key issues and challenges for agencies working singly and together in these cases. It is also to provide the government with evidence of what is changing as a result of their reforms, and to identify areas where further change may be required to support organisations to learn from serious case reviews and to keep children safe.

The latest research analysis ‘Pathways to harm, pathways to protection: a triennial analysis of serious case reviews 2011 to 2014’ Study[1] was published by the Department for Education in May 2016 and can be viewed via the attached link: ‘Pathways to Harm’

The study looked at what is termed ‘Cumulative risk of harm’ and highlighted that there is cumulative risk of harm to a child when different parental factors are present in combination or over periods of time. The study noted that factors already identified from previous studies (‘the toxic trio’ – domestic abuse, parental mental ill-health, and alcohol or substance misuse) were still present in a number of cases, but the present study also identified other risks such as adverse experiences in the parents’ own childhoods, a history of violent crime, a pattern of multiple consecutive partners, acrimonious separation, and social isolation. The study states that when presented with any of these risk factors, practitioners should explore whether there may be other cumulative risks of harm to the child, as well as any protective factors.

The 175 SCR final reports provided detailed evidence of parental problems and behaviour, and in particular indicated the cumulative risk of harm to the child which is present when domestic abuse co-exists with substance misuse, and with mental health problems.

Parental alcohol and drug misuse were both recorded as present in over a third of reviews (37% and 38% respectively), with at least one of these in 47% of cases. In 48 cases (27%) both factors were present. Parental mental health problems were found in 53% of cases, and domestic abuse in 54%. A breakdown of these statistics can be found in the attached document: ‘Venn Diagram’.

[1] Pathways to harm, pathways to protection: a triennial analysis of serious case reviews 2011 to 2014. Final report. May 2016. Peter Sidebotham*, Marian Brandon**, Sue Bailey**, Pippa Belderson**, Jane Dodsworth**, Jo Garstang*, Elizabeth Harrison*, Ameeta Retzer* and Penny Sorensen**

*University of Warwick. **University of East Anglia