Study: Cases of serious child abuse increase slightly
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Posted 8 months ago
The study’s researchers noted the findings contradict data from child protective services agencies, which reported a 55% decrease in physical abuse cases from 1997 to 2009.
The researchers said the study is the first to track the occurrence of serious injuries — such as head injuries, burns and fractures — from physical abuse in hospitalized children. They said the findings raise concerns that results from U.S. child protective services agencies may be due to changes in reporting of cases to agencies rather than to a true lessening in child abuse cases.
A possible reason for the divergent result is that studies by child protective services agencies included all cases of physical abuse regardless of age or severity. The new study, by researchers with Yale University, focused only on serious physical abuse.
"These results highlight the challenges of helping parents do better by their children and the importance of effective prevention programs to reduce serious abusive injuries in young children," John M. Leventhal, MD, professor of pediatrics and nursing at Yale and director of the Child Abuse Programs at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital, said in a news release.
Leventhal and co-author Julie R. Gaither, graduate student in the Yale School of Public Health, studied data from the Kids’ Inpatient Database, a sample of discharges from hospitals in the United States. They examined trends in serious injuries related to child abuse from 1997 to 2009. Cases of serious physical injury, such as head injuries, fractures, burns and abdominal injuries, were identified using different injury codes.
The Kids’ Inpatient Database also provides information on demographics, including a child’s age, gender, race and health insurance; whether the child died during hospitalization; and the length of hospital stay. This data indicated that the number of children hospitalized due to abuse-related injuries has increased by 4.9% over those 12 years.
Leventhal said the difference between the two sets of data highlights the challenge of using a single source to track a complex problem such as child abuse. "We also need to develop and fund effective prevention programs," Leventhal said.