The ACMS has three primary aims.
Specifically we aim to examine:

  1. The prevalence of each type of child maltreatment (physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, and exposure to domestic violence) and of multi-type maltreatment;
  2. The nature of maltreatment experiences (the child’s age and sex; the child’s relationship with the person who inflicted the maltreatment; frequency and severity of maltreatment; parental risk factors) and the health problems associated with maltreatment and multi-type maltreatment; and
  3. The burden of disease attributable to child maltreatment, and selected healthcare costs.


A total sample of 8500 will be obtained. A recent meta-analysis by the chief investigators found the lifetime prevalence of non-penetrative sexual abuse for both sexes combined was estimated at 21.85%. For a prevalence survey, this prevalence could be detected with +/- 1 percent precision with a total sample of 6,549 adults.

In order to allow subsequent studies to track changes in prevalence, 5,000 participants in the 16-24 year age group will be included. In addition, approximately 1,000 people will be assessed in each of the following age cohorts: 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, and 65 and over. Equal genders will be represented in each age cohort.

Participants will be eligible to participate if:

  • They are in the relevant age sample at the time of contact

Participants are excluded from participation if:

  • They cannot speak or understand English
  • They are outside the age or gender sampling at the time of initial contact.

and Methods

The ACMS uses a cross-sectional retrospective survey design. Data will be collected via random telephone sampling and Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) technology. Potential participants will receive an advance text message including a link to the study website prior to receiving personal invitations.  Following screening, participants will provide verbal informed consent for participation in the current study and for their anonymous data to be used in related studies. They can then participate in the interview immediately or schedule an interview at their preferred time. All interviews will be conducted by our research partner The Social Research Centre during 2020 (for the pilot) and 2021 (for primary data collection).

To assess lifetime childhood prevalence of maltreatment all participants (irrespective of age) will answer retrospective questions about their childhood exposure to the five types of maltreatment (physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, and exposure to domestic violence). In additional participants aged 16-17 years will also report past year exposure to abuse in order to allow past year prevalence and past year incidence to be calculated. All participants will be surveyed about their current physical and mental health status.


Participants will be contacted randomly via telephone using Random Digit Dial. Data indicated 93% of Australians own a mobile phone. An all-mobile sampling frame will therefore be used. Numbers will be selected via a Random Digit Dial. Potential participants will be screened and invited to participate via telephone. Once the required sample of each age cohort is met no further participants in that age group will be accepted.

& variables assessed

A wide range of variables will be assessed during the interviews. Only the primary variables are listed here. For participants who are 16 or 17 years old, lifetime prevalence, past year prevalence and past year incidence will be collected.  For the primary outcome measure of child maltreatment, the study team will employ a revised version of the Juvenile Victimisation Questionnaire (JVQ). The relevant items of the JVQ have been substantially revised through a rigorous testing process. These revisions have ensured the items map on to the most robust current conceptual models of the five types of maltreatment.  This revision  occurred in consultation with the investigator team, the JVQ’s original authors, an international panel of technical experts, and representative survivors of child abuse and neglect. The revised instrument was then subjected to two phases of cognitive testing and quantitative pilot testing to establish psychometrics. Should you wish to use this revised ACMS version of the JVQ, please contact lead investigator Ben Mathews.

On the conclusion of the project, the complete survey instrument (excluding copyrighted items) will be made available on this page and will be available via a creative commons license. For researchers (including research higher degree students and postdoctoral researchers) interested in collaboration at any time please contact our research team on The final data set will be available to approved researchers wishing to conduct related studies following the conclusion of the project. Requests for data access will be open in 2024.

Childhood related variables

Construct Instrument
Physical abuse Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire (tailored)
Emotional abuse Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire (tailored)
Sexual abuse (including internet victimization) Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire (tailored)
Exposure to domestic violence Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire (tailored)
Neglect Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire (tailored)
Corporal punishment Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire (tailored)
Peer bullying (including internet victimization) Purpose built items
Sibling bullying Purpose built items
Contextual factors related to the abuse including child age and sex, frequency, severity, and relationship with the person inflicting the abuse. Juvenile Victimisation Questionnaire (tailored)
Adverse Childhood Experiences Various items including many items included in the National Survey of Children’s Health . Exposure to significant health issues in childhood will also be assessed.
Perceived family financial pressure during childhood Purpose built items

Other variables

Construct Instrument
Major depressive disorder clinical criteria (Lifetime) Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview (M.I.N.I.)
Alcohol use disorder clinical criteria (Current) Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview (M.I.N.I.)
Generalized anxiety disorder clinical criteria (Current) Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview (M.I.N.I.)
Post traumatic stress disorder clinical criteria (Current) Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview (M.I.N.I.)
Suicidality (current and past ideation and attempts) Suicidality questions from the National Adolescent Mental Health Surveys
Non-suicidal self harm Suicidality questions from the National Adolescent Mental Health Surveys
Cardiac diagnosis (lifetime reported diagnosis, past year treatment and age of onset) Adapted from the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing
Adult use of corporal punishment (and perceived necessity of corporal punishment to raise children) attitudes towards corporal punishment) Purpose built items
Diabetes or high sugar diagnosis (lifetime reported diagnosis, past year treatment and age of onset) Adapted from the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing
Tobacco use (current and past use) Adapted from the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing
Alcohol use (current and 12 month use, perceived problem use) Purpose designed items
Marijuana use (frequency and dependence) Purpose designed items (frequency) Severity of Dependence Scale (dependence)
Obesity Body mass index
Health service utilisation (including hospitalisations, medical and mental health consultations from generalists, specialists, allied health and complementary therapists) ) Adapted from the National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing and purposely designed
Intimate Partner Violence (Including psychological, sexual, physical abuse) Composite Abuse Scale Short Form
Involvement in justice system Purpose designed items
Demographics (range of demographic variables including age, ethnicity, country of birth, education, gender identification, sexual orientation ATSI status, financial stress, marital status, work status postcode) Purpose designed items
Upset from survey (and if so how much) Purpose designed items


The project is funded by the NHMRC for five years from 2019-2023 (App 1158750). Additional funding has been provided by the Australian Government. The table below shows the primary tasks for each year. Of particular note, the primary data collection will occur in 2021. Results will be published on an ongoing basis and the final report will be available in 2023. Data will be banked and available for use by approved researchers in 2024.

Year Year Primary Focus
One 2019 Project planning, instrument design, ethics
Two 2020 Cognitive testing and pilot analysis
Three 2021 Primary data collection
Four 2022 Data analysis and report writing
Five 2023 Knowledge transfer
Six 2024 Data banked in repository for researcher access

Data access

At the conclusion of the project and once the final report has been published, data will be archived and accessible for researchers wishing to access it for related projects. Participant consent will be provided for de-identified data to be used by researchers for related projects. Data is expected to be accessible to the general research community in 2024. To access data researchers are asked to submit a request for data access form outlining their proposed project.

Requests for data access will be reviewed by the project team to ensure the proposal is suitably related to the current project as to be covered by the participants original consent. Selected researchers collaborating with the research team may have access to the anonymous data set prior to this data.

& publications

The final report is expected to be released  2023.

Current publications are listed below

Mathews, B., Meinck, F., Erksine, H.E., Tran, N., Lee, H., Kellard, K., Pacella, R., Scott, J.G., Finkelhor, D., Higgins, D.J., Thomas, H.J., & Haslam, D.M. (2023). Adaptation and validation of the Juvenile Victimization Questionnaire-R2 for a national study of child maltreatment in Australia. Child Abuse & Neglect. 139.

Mathews, B., MacMillan, H. L., Meinck, F., Finkelhor, D., Haslam, D., Tonmyr, L., Gonzalez, A., Afifi, T. O., Scott, J. G., Pacella, R. E., Higgins, D., Thomas, H., Collin-Vézina, D., & Walsh, K. (2022). The ethics of child maltreatment surveys in relation to participant distress: Implications of social science evidence, ethical guidelines, and law. Child Abuse & Neglect.

Mathews, B (2022) Legal duties of researchers to protect participants in child maltreatment surveys: Advancing legal epidemiology. University of New South Wales Law Journal. 45(2) 722-763.

Mathews B, Pacella R, Dunne M, Scott J, Finkelhor D, Meinck F, Higgins DJ, Erskine H, Thomas HJ, Haslam D, Tran N, Le H, Honey N, Kellard K, Lawrence D. (2021) The Australian Child Maltreatment Study (ACMS): protocol for a national survey of the prevalence of child abuse and neglect, associated mental disorders and physical health problems, and burden of disease. BMJ Open. 11:11(5):e047074. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-047074.

Mathews B, Pacella R, Dunne, M, Simunovic M, & Marston C (2020) Improving measurement of child abuse and neglect: A systematic review and analysis of national prevalence studies. PLoS ONE Jan 28;15(1):e0227884. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0227884.


Haslam D & Mathews B (2020) Be careful with photos, talk about sex: How to protect your kids from online sexual abuse. The ConversationJune, 11 June 2020. [Featured article]


Haslam D Mathews B & Walsh, K. (2020) Use proper names for body parts, don’t force hugs: How to protect your kids from in-person sexual abuse. The ConversationJune, 10 June 2020. [Featured article]


Sign-up for updates

Subscribe now
Get in touch

Join our

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Our partners

The ACMS is proud to partner with the National Health and Medical Research Council, The Social Research Centre, and the Australian Government on this important project. For more information about our partners please click here.