Child abuse increase tied to economy

August 1, 2012

The number of children admitted to US pediatric hospitals for physical abuse has increased over the past 10 years despite falling admission rates for all-cause injuries in children aged younger than 6 years for the same period.

The number of children admitted to US pediatric hospitals for physical abuse has increased over the past 10 years despite falling admission rates for all-cause injuries in children aged younger than 6 years for the same period. New research suggests that the rising rates were linked to increases in mortgage delinquency and foreclosure.

In a retrospective study of the effect of the recession on child abuse, discharge data from 38 pediatric hospitals were linked to unemployment, mortgage delinquency, and foreclosure rates for the associated metropolitan statistical areas.

The researchers found that child hospitalizations for physical abuse and traumatic brain injuries rose each year between 2000 and 2009 by 0.79% and 3.1% per year, respectively. In contrast, the rate of admissions for all-cause injuries declined by 0.80%.

The results, which are consistent with those of other recent studies, suggest that housing concerns, a cause of stress within communities, are a harbinger for maltreatment rates.

Wood JN, Medina SP, Feudtner C, et al. Local macroeconomic trends and hospital admissions for child abuse, 2000-2009. Pediatrics. 2012. Epub ahead of print.