A study, published this week in Pediatrics and conducted in Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Washington, found that the number of children diagnosed with abusive head trauma in hospitals rose from 8.9 in 100,000 before the recession to 14.7 in 100,000 during the recession. Abusive head trauma, such as Shaken Baby Syndrome, is the leading cause of child death, and previous research suggests that times of stress can lead to increases in child abuse.
The study found 422 cases of abusive head trauma in hospital emergency rooms, with the average age of the child at 9 months. Sixteen percent of the children in the study died due to their injuries. The authors mention that an important factor in the rise in cases of AHT may be that the recession forced many people who had previously not been caretakers to be the primary caretakers for young children. In a MSNBC article on the study, Dr. Rachel P. Berger, one of the authors, notes the importance of teaching parents that it is ok to leave a crying baby safely in a crib and walk away after all basic needs have been taken care of when stressed. She also says that government decreases in programs to help infants and young children may also contribute to increased parental stress.
Schubert Center Director Dr. Jill Korbin has studied child maltreatment for over 35. She is currently editing a volume on C. Henry Kempe, a pediatrician who was the first to identify child abuse in a medical setting.