Each year, child abuse causes thousands of hospitalizations and the number of serious child abuse cases is increasing.
According to a Yale University study published in the October 1, 2012, issue of Pediatrics, rates of serious injuries from child abuse have steadily risen over the past ten years.
This study contradicts a recent report of a 55 percent drop in child abuse cases from 1997 to 2009. That study was based on reports by child welfare agencies. The new study is unique in that it is based on hospital admissions for serious injuries caused by abuse. Researchers believe the discrepancy between the studies is caused by the means of data collection. The Yale study was based on a database of hospital discharges called the “Kids Inpatient Databases” and included only serious physical injuries. Child protective service agencies collect all data, including cases of emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect, regardless of age or severity.
In 2009, more than six out of every 100,000 U.S. children were treated in the hospital for serious physical injuries caused by child abuse including burns, fractures, wounds, shaken baby syndrome, and traumatic brain injury from physical abuse. Injuries caused by neglect, sexual abuse, or firearms were omitted from the study.
Most common injuries from child physical abuse:
- Fractures (48.5%)
- Skin or open wounds
- Traumatic brain injury
- Abdominal injuries
The rate of increase in serious injuries from child abuse was 4.9% for all children under 18. For infants under age one, the rate of serious injury from abuse increased nearly 11 percent between 1997 and 2009.
Researchers believe poverty, financial stress, and a tough economy may play a role. Only 34 percent of U.S. children are on Medicaid, yet 74 percent of serious child abuse cases in 2009 involved children on Medicaid. This is an increase from 59 percent in 1997.
The researchers are calling for a national campaign to teach caregivers and parents nonviolent methods for dealing with stress of raising a young child. But, the authors stressed, people other than relatives injure many children. Daycare abuse, especially, is a growing problem.