Child Abuse Injuries Increased Slightly

Child abuse injury rates have gone up while overall child abuse has gone down

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Child abuse in general has been declining over the past decade, which is great news. Now it's time for the rate of serious injuries resulting from child abuse to decline as well.

A recent study has found that serious injuries from child abuse have slightly increased between 1997 and 2009.

"Report all child abuse or neglect."

The study, led by John M. Leventhal, MD, from the Department of Pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine, aimed to find out the rate of serious injuries that occur as a result of physical child abuse.

Data from U.S. child protective services shows a significant decline in child abuse. In fact, national rates of child abuse, they report, have gone down 55 percent from 1992 to 2009.

However, this data does not take into account what kind of injuries are resulting from physical abuse.

Therefore, Dr. Leventhal and colleagues used the Kids' Inpatient Database to examine the causes of injury among a nationally representative group of children admitted to hospitals across the U.S.

The data was compiled every three years from 1997 to 2009, the time period of the study. The researchers looked for the codes used to identify abusive head injury, abuse injury, certain types of assault and involvement of a perpetrator of abuse.

The researchers found that serious physical injuries resulting from child abuse have actually increased slightly over the study period.

The number of injuries per 100,000 children increased 5 percent for children under age 18. In 1997, 6.1 children per 100,000 experienced a serious injury from child abuse.

This number dropped slightly to 6 children per 100,000 in 2000 and 2006, but it increased to 6.4 per 100,000 children in 2009.

The rate of increase for children under one year old increased 11 percent over the time period from 1997 to 2009.

"In summary, our study shows that in the United States over a 12-year period (1997–2009), there was a slight increase in the incidence of children hospitalized with serious injuries due to physical abuse," the authors wrote. "Our results highlight the need to develop prevention programs that can reduce this significant morbidity (and mortality)."

LuAnn Pierce, a clinical social worker in Colorado, said this report provides us with valuable, if unsettling, insights.

"I think that we have done a pretty good job of providing preventative services to raise awareness of child abuse and neglect," she said. "What is most frightening in this report, but also may offer the most information for planning and intervention, is that 55 to 63 percent of the victims who were identified as being seriously injured were under one year of age across that span of time."

Pierce also noted that the high number of reports among white children — nearly 50 percent of the reports, compared to 30 percent African-American and 16 percent Latino — point out that this is not an issue limited to one ethnic/racial group.

"Given the racial stereotype that most abuse and social service intervention is related to minorities, this proves once again that these racial stereotypes are not justified, and may be more about societal prejudices," Pierce said. "It may also point to the possibility that white parents with private insurance who are at risk of harming their children are not being identified."

The study was published October 1 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by the Department of Pediatrics at Yale School of Medicine.

Dr. Leventhal is the principal investigator on Yale grants that support child abuse programs and prevention programs. He has also provided expert testimony in cases of child abuse. No other authors had disclosures.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 11, 2012
Last Updated:
October 14, 2012