The Advertising Standards Authority is to investigate a Barnardo's television advert that shows a teenage girl being repeatedly hit by her father.
The ASA has received almost 400 complaints about the advert, which shows a sequence of images depicting the teenager mugging someone, being locked up, being hit by her father, struggling at school and injecting heroin.
The sequence speeds up to emphasise the cyclical nature of the events. The message at the end reads: "For thousands of children in the UK the story will keep repeating until someone stops it."
Barnardo's said the advert was approved by advertising clearance company Clearcast for broadcast after the 9pm watershed.
A statement from the charity said: "While Barnardo's appreciates that some people may find the images within its current television advertisement hard-hitting, the charity has also received significant support from the public and professionals alike. As Britain's largest children's charity, we do not use powerful images lightly. However, we have a duty to act as a voice for the most vulnerable children and young people in the UK."
A spokesman for the ASA said the investigation would take "a matter of weeks rather than months". He said the charity was free to screen the advert until the verdict was announced, and insisted the high number of complaints would not necessarily lead to a ban.
Last month, anti-bullying charity Beatbullying accused Barnardo's of "fuelling hysteria" with an internet advert showing a group of men firing shotguns at teenagers and calling them "vermin" (Third Sector, 27 November, page 5).