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Monday 28th May 2018

One million US infants maltreated

7th April 2008

Government researchers in the United States have published figures detailing the abuse or neglect of very young children in recent years, calling the results distressing.


According to the figures, nearly one million US children were victims of abuse or neglect during the period from October 2005 to September 2006.

That figure included 90,000 infants (less than a year old) who were victims of non-fatal abuse or neglect.

The federal report has led to calls for better education of parents.

The study looked for the first time at rates of non-fatal maltreatment in infants less than a year old, revealing that a high proportion of the reported maltreatment occurred during their first week.

The report uses the term maltreatment to refer to physical abuse, neglect or deprivation of survival basics, medical neglect, sexual abuse, and psychological or emotional maltreatment.

Maltreatment was taking place far earlier in a child's life than researchers had previously bargained for, according to Ileana Arias, director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

But not enough data has been collected to determine whether the problem of neglect and abuse of very young infants and babies is getting worse or better.

Lead researcher Rebecca Leeb said the recent study, published in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, was the first time the very youngest age group had been studied.

Around 70% of the total reported cases in babies less than a week old were cases of neglect, while 13% were cases of physical and sexual abuse.

For infants who were maltreated in the first month of life, the vast majority occurred within three days of birth, a pattern which Arias called clear and preventable.

Joan E. Ohl, commissioner for children, youth and families in the Administration for Children and Families, said that early neglect and abuse significantly raised the likelihood of risky behavior in adolescence, and could also influence drug and alcohol use later in life.

Neglect is defined as failure to meet basic needs for shelter, food, clothing, education and medical care.

Educational level, income, and other factors may affect maltreatment of infants, and further studies are needed to determine this, researchers said.

But more attention should be paid to risk factors in pre-natal and maternity settings before new mothers took their babies home, they added, pointing to an overall lack of parenting training and education around the country.


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