Characteristics of Parents of Abused Infants Studied

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The parents of infants with abusive head trauma tend to be younger, less educated and unmarried, and mothers tend to have smoked during pregnancy, sought prenatal care later and had low birth weight infants, researchers report in the May issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.

THURSDAY, May 8 (HealthDay News) -- The parents of infants with abusive head trauma tend to be younger, less educated and unmarried, and mothers tend to have smoked during pregnancy, sought prenatal care later and had low birth weight infants, researchers report in the May issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics.

Henry Kesler, M.D., and colleagues from Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine in Hershey examined the demographics of 327 cases of abusive head trauma involving children younger than 3 years of age in Pennsylvania between 1996 and 2002 that had been reported to a statewide registry.

The researchers found an incidence of 14.7 cases per 100,000 person-years during the first two years of life, although the incidence was much higher during the first year. The incidence was similar in metropolitan, non-metropolitan and rural counties, and the parents of the abused children were more likely to be younger, black, less educated and unmarried. Most of the victims and perpetrators were male, and fathers were more likely to be Hispanic, the report indicates.

The authors of this study "have been pioneers in approaching prevention by taking the message to one of the most important sources: the parents of newborns," Ann-Christine Duhaime, M.D., from Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H., writes in an accompanying editorial. "The message -- that there are ways to handle the frustrations and fatigue of infant care that provide alternatives to impulsive violence -- needs to be strongest, and most frequently reinforced, where the risk is highest."

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