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NSPCC Why Language Matters: Toxic Trio

Last updated by on Tuesday, March 28, 2023


NSPCC Learning has published a blog post on the term ‘toxic trio’ as part of the Why language matters blog series.


The term ‘toxic trio’ is used by some professionals to refer to the co-occurrence of parental domestic abuse, parental substance misuse and parental mental illness in a child’s life. To some, the presence of this ‘trio’ signals that a child may be experiencing abuse or neglect.


But there are some issues with the term ‘toxic trio.


The blog post explains that the term is unhelpful and inaccurate. It discusses the definition and background to the term and its uses; what the issues are with ‘toxic trio’ as a term; the impact its use might have on safeguarding children and families; and how professionals can reframe their thinking around using the term.