Topic 1 Definition of Child Vulnerability


In general, vulnerable children are defined as any children at greater risk of experiencing physical or emotional harm and/or experiencing poor outcomes because of one or more factors in their lives.

The general definition of National Child Bureau expands on the aforementioned, adding that children can be in more than one “vulnerability group” simultaneously and have multiple adverse childhood experiences over time, thus heightening the risk exposure.

Children’s Commissioner (2017) identifies 8 domains of vulnerability:

  1. Health and/or disability (children who have special educational needs, children who face mental or physical health difficulties etc).
  2. Economic circumstances (homeless children, children in poverty or unstable housing etc).
  3. Family characteristics (children in ‘troubled families’, young carers, children whose parents present problematic substance use, teenage parents, children whose parents may have limited parenting capacity etc).
  4. Educational engagement (children not engaged in education, excluded or at risk of exclusion).
  5. Involvement in offending/ exhibiting anti-social behaviour (Children involved with the criminal justice system / young offenders, gang members).
  6. Experience of abuse and/or exploitation (traumatized or abused children in any way, children victims of modern slavery or trafficking) (Bales, Hesketh & Silverman, 2015).
  7. Missing children.
  8. Minority populations (Children pertaining in minority ethnic groups, children pertaining in gender minorities, LGBTQI+ community etc)
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