Serious child abuse injuries creep up, study shows

October 1, 2012

A new Yale School of Medicine study shows that cases of serious physical abuse in children, such as head injuries, burns, and fractures, increased slightly by about 5% in the last 12 years. This is in sharp contrast to data from child protective services agencies, which show a 55% decrease in physical abuse cases from 1997 to 2009.

Published in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics (online October 1), the Yale study is the first to track the occurrence of serious injuries due to physical abuse in hospitalized children. The study raises concerns that results from the U.S. agencies may be due to changes in reporting of cases to agencies, rather than a true lessening in child abuse cases. One possible reason for the divergent results is that studies by the child protective services agencies included all cases of physical abuse regardless of age or severity. The Yale study focused only on serious .

"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," said John M. Leventhal, M.D., professor of pediatrics and nursing at Yale, and director of the Child Abuse Programs at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital.

Leventhal and co-author Julie R. Gaither, graduate student in the Yale School of Public Health, studied data from the Kids' Inpatient Database (KID), 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 , fractures, burns, and abdominal injuries, were identified using different codes. The KID 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. Leventhal and Gaither found that the number of children hospitalized due to abuse-related injuries has increased by 4.9 percent over those 12 years.

Leventhal said the difference in results between the two studies highlights the challenge of using a single source of data to track a complex problem such as . "We also need to develop and fund effective ," said Leventhal.

Explore further: Study finds primary health care providers fail to report substantial cases of child abuse

More information: Pediatrics Vol. 130, No. 5, (November 2012)

Related Stories

Children hospitalized at alarming rate due to abuse

February 6, 2012

In one year alone, over 4,500 children in the United States were hospitalized due to child abuse, and 300 of them died of their injuries, Yale School of Medicine researchers report in a new study. The findings are published ...

Recommended for you

Youth dance classes score low in physical activity

May 18, 2015

For parents who send their kids to dance classes to get some exercise, a new study from researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine suggests most youth dance classes provide only limited amounts ...

Roller coaster rides trigger pediatric stroke

December 11, 2014

Riding a couple roller coasters at an amusement park appears to have triggered an unusual stroke in a 4-year-old boy, according to a report in the journal Pediatric Neurology.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.