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Wednesday 26th June 2019

Child abuse cases rise during recession

20th September 2011

Child abuse cases are on the rise as the economy begins to go into its latest recession, according to a recent US study.


Researchers found that the number of young children and infants entering intensive care units (ICUs) and hospitals has nearly doubled since 2008.

While researchers had previously been aware of a tentative link between child abuse and economic hardship, the recent study is the first to give the link a statistical basis.

Study co-author Rachel Berger, a child abuse expert at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, said that the number of children implicated in the recent upsurge of abuse cases was a lot, especially if the statistic held true throughout the US.

For the study, the researchers used data from four hospitals in Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington.

They found that, from 2004 to 2009, more than 400 children, whose average age was nine months, were taken to hospitals and diagnosed with abusive head trauma.

More than 15% of those children died from their injuries.

The number of annual cases was constant at about nine abusive head injuries per 100,000 children from 2004 to the end of 2007.

Since then, the number  to nearly 15 children per 100,000.

Berger said that, at her hospital, the number of cases per year suddenly jumped from 17 to 37 in 2008.

She said that, at any given time, there was nearly always a baby in the hospital's ICU.

In the US, according to official statistics, nearly 2,000 toddlers are hospitalised with abusive trauma every year.

Berger said that the official statistics probably did not reflect the way things were actually happening, partly due to a very limited definition of abuse.

She said that the main perpetrators of such abuse seemed to be fathers and other male caretakers, and that the government had actually begun to increase the stress on parents by cutting programmes to help infants and young children.

Such programmes would normally include daycare and child benefit programmes.

Berger said she felt officials needed to consider the outcome of cutting funding to such programmes.

Peter Sherman, a paediatrician and director of the residency programme in social paediatrics at Montefiore Medical Centre in New York City, said that if people were stressed out from parenting, they were at a high risk of becoming abusive.

He said that stress and poverty were both risk factors for child abuse, and that clinicians needed to monitor risks by looking at stresses on parents.


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