New Zealand's poor child abuse record has been laid bare in a major international study.

It has been named as one of six countries and states where there is no clear evidence of a decrease in child maltreatment over the past two decades.

The study, led by Professor Ruth Gilbert from the University College London Institute of Child Health (ICH), used three types of child maltreatment indicators; violent deaths in children, hospitalised injuries related to maltreatment, and involvement with child protection agencies.

The indicators were gathered from health and child protection agencies, and compared trends in children aged under 11 across New Zealand, England, Sweden, the USA, Western Australia and Manitoba in Canada.

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The study found large variations in the frequency of involvement with child protection agencies, but little difference between the rates of maltreatment-related injury or violent death.

Contributing author and Otago University research fellow Dr Pauline Gulliver said it was concerning there had been no apparent change in child maltreatment rates in New Zealand.

Professor Gilbert said the results showed a need to focus on preventing factors that contributed to child maltreatment.

"For too long, policy has been driven by high-profile deaths of individual children. We need to invest in population-based data to inform policy and to monitor trends.

"We also need to be able to link health and social care data to understand which professionals are seeing these children.''