Scotland has created a new dataset that combines information on children who have experienced abuse or neglect. The Edinburgh Child Protection dataset comprises all children referred to child protection paediatric services in Edinburgh City over a 20 year period and offers an unprecedented opportunity for research on child maltreatment.  This equates to around 27,000 referrals for c.16,000 children (as children could receive multiple referrals).

Current administrative data on children who have been maltreated is difficult to access for research purposes, even in countries with well-developed administrative data infrastructures. As a result, research is often limited to those receiving services or removed from birth parents.

The data are pseudonymised and are securely stored within the DataLoch Service in South East Scotland so that only approved researchers can access them under tightly controlled conditions.

The data available include when children were referred, who referred them, the type of maltreatment, child demographics, medical assessments done, and outcomes of the referrals. Excitingly, data have had CHI numbers (the unique health identifier in Scotland) successfully added for 93% of children. This means that this dataset can be linked with a whole range of other health data both before and after the referral, such as hospital admissions, psychiatric hospital admissions; prescription records; antenatal records; the Cancer registry, and death records.

The potential for future research stemming from these linked data is enormous:

  • What factors put children at risk of maltreatment or protect them from it?
  • What healthcare did maltreated children receive before and after being referred to child protection services? This helps identify missed chances for earlier intervention.
  • What is the impact of different types of maltreatment during sensitive periods of development, or for different genders?
  • How have patterns of referral changed over the 20 years of data collection?

The records can also be linked from mother to child. This allows studying the effects of abuse and neglect across generations.

Dr. Louise Marryat, a researcher on the project to clean and archive these data, shared her enthusiasm about the research potential: ‘Ultimately, we hope that research using these newly archived data can provide important new evidence about risk and protective factors for maltreatment, as well as outcomes stemming from maltreatment and intervention. In turn, we hope that this will lead to interventions to reduce child maltreatment in Scotland and beyond, and better support for children and young people following maltreatment.’

This valuable dataset is available to approved researchers through DataLoch service in South-East Scotland:

For further information about these data, contact


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Dr Louise Marryat, Baxter Fellow, School of Health Sciences, University of Dundee

Marryat, L., Stephen, J., Mok, J., Vincent, S. ., Kirk, C., Logie, L., Devaney, J. and Wood, R. . (2023) “Data Resource Profile: The Edinburgh Child Protection Dataset - a new linked administrative data source of children referred to Child Protection services in Edinburgh, Scotland”, International Journal of Population Data Science, 8(6). doi: 10.23889/ijpds.v8i6.2173.