FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 31 January 2012
Risks of having unrelated adults living with children highlighted
Following the charging of Matthew Ellery for the death of Ngaruawahia infant Serenity Jay Scott-Dinnington, Child Matters
spokesperson Amanda Meynell says “it is important that parents understand the risks to their children of having
unrelated adults living in their home with their children.”
Matthew Ellery is the partner of Serenity’s mother Chelsea Scott, and was living in the home with Serenity at the time
of her death. He was charged yesterday for Serenity’s death.
Amanda Meynell, Academic Services Manager for Child Matters
, New Zealand’s child abuse prevention specialists, says “international research has consistently concluded that
children living in homes with unrelated adults are at much higher risk of injury or death. Parents need to be aware of
these risks and have appropriate supports in place to reduce any risks to their children”
Dubbed the ‘Cinderella Effect
’ by psychologists, Mrs Meynell warns “The name Cinderella Effect implies this increased risk only applies to step
parents. However the research shows that any non related adult in the home increases the risk to the child. So for any
parent, including single parents, the introduction of any unrelated adult to the home must be carefully considered and
the risks taken into account”
One piece of US research by the School of Medicine, at University of Missouri
, concluded that: Children residing in households with unrelated adults were nearly 50 times as likely to die of
inflicted injuries than children residing with 2 biological parents or with a single parent and no unrelated adults.
Another piece of research from Australia by the School of Psychology, Deakin University
, concluded that children under five living with a non-biological or step-parent are up to 77 times more likely to die
from a violence-related injury than those living with their biological families. This increased to up to 102 times
greater risk if the child was living with neither biological parent, such as foster children and state wards. Their
research also showed that children living with single mothers were no more likely to die from either violent or
unintentional causes than those in biological families.
The Child Matters website has more information about child abuse and other risk factors
to children. Also available on the website is the publication How Can I Tell?
which provides more detailed information about recognising child abuse.
About Child Matters:
• Child Matters is the only organisation in New Zealand solely focused on child abuse prevention.
• It works to prevent child abuse by 1) speaking up for New Zealand children; and 2) educating adults to identify
child abuse and take the appropriate action.
• Child Matters is a catalyst in communities, working to connect organisations and build leaders who are making
positive impacts on child abuse prevention.
• Child Matters is an independent charitable trust with a cross sector view and influence around child abuse in
New Zealand. It has links to all organisations who work with children and enables them to tackle the issue of child
abuse in their local communities.
• Every adult in New Zealand is affected in some way by child abuse and, therefore, Child Matters believes every
adult has a role to play in protecting children. Its child abuse prevention educational programmes are a powerful
• Child Matters believes child abuse prevention education must be made compulsory for all key organisations
working with children.
• Child Matters works with a range of organisations to educate their staff to identify child abuse and take the
appropriate action. It encourages organisations to adopt a child abuse prevention education and staff wellness programme
to demonstrate they take child abuse prevention seriously.
• Child Matters operates nationally.
• For more information, visit: www.childmatters.org.nz