Fear of crime is harming the well-being of teenage girls – with one in three scared that they will be attacked by a stranger, research has found.
A damning report found that nearly 40 per cent of youngsters across the UK – a staggering 2.2million – were concerned that they will become the victim of crime or anti-social behaviour.
It also revealed that a quarter of boys and one in five girls lived in fear of being assaulted.
The report, from the Children’s Society charity and backed by academics, called the results from a large-scale survey ‘alarming’.
Experts said the avalanche of children experiencing worries and anxiety could lead to youngsters turning to drugs, alcohol or fleeing home to escape the misery.
A quarter of boys and one in five girls lived in fear of being assaulted (stock photo)
The charity’s annual Good Childhood Report found that fear of crime had emerged as the most widespread issue for children aged ten to 17.
One teenage girl interviewed by the charity said: ‘[They’re] blowing kisses, men beeping, standing asking [your] age, whistling, shouting, stopping vans next to you, asking for [your] number.’
Meanwhile, a 13-year-old boy said: ‘You’ve got to fight to survive around this area. You have to stick up for yourself the whole time.’
Researchers calculated that almost 280,000 children – around 4.8 per cent of the 5.8million in the country – are unhappy with their lives overall.
In total, the youngsters rated their satisfaction with life at 75 per cent – lower than they did in 2010 when the study began.
Some 2.1million teenagers – one in three – lived in households where their parents were struggling to pay the bills.
The survey of 3,000 children found that more than half – 53 per cent – had experienced at least three serious problems in the last five years.
Issues included emotional neglect, issues in the family with alcohol or mental health, household debt, homelessness or concerns about crime and safety in their neighbourhood.
The study, carried out with the University of York, found that teenagers who have experienced seven or more disadvantages in their lives are ten times more likely to be unhappy than those who have experienced none.
Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society said: ‘It is alarming to see that millions of teenagers are contending with a multitude of problems in their lives and suffering as a result.
‘Teenagers are coming under pressure in all areas of their lives, whether it’s being afraid to walk down their street, worrying about money, or having a parent who’s seriously unwell and this is damaging their well-being.
‘Sadly we know many of these teenagers will only get help if they reach crisis point – such as running away from home, or abusing alcohol or drugs. Children are increasingly finding themselves with nowhere to turn, putting them at greater risk.’
The charity called on the Government to address a predicted £2billion funding gap for children’s services by 2020.
It also said local government, police forces, schools and other local agencies to work together to improve the wellbeing of children in their area.