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Child Abuse Cases May Have Increased: Study

Update Date: Oct 01, 2012 08:12 AM EDT

A new study by Yale School of Medicine study suggests that the cases of serious physical abuse in children, such as head injuries, burns, and fractures, have slightly increased by about 5% in the last 12 years. However, this report challenges the figures released by child protective services agencies, which claimed a 55% decrease in physical abuse cases among children from 1997 to 2009.

The current study is the first to have tracked the incidences of serious injuries due to physical abuse in hospitalized children.

The study raises questions and concerns about the figures released by child protective services. A decrease in the number of incidences reported by them could be due to the fact that perhaps not all child abusive cases are actually reported to the U.S. child protective services agencies, and not because the number of cases has really gone down.

Another factor could be that the results revealed by child protective services included all physical abuse cases regardless of age or severity, whereas, the Yale study focused only on serious physical abuse.

 "These results highlight the challenges of helping parents do better by their children and the importance of effective prevention programs to reduce serious abusive injuries in young children," said John M. Leventhal, M.D., professor of pediatrics and nursing at Yale, and director of the Child Abuse Programs at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital, according to Medical Xpress.

For the study, Leventhal and co-author Julie R. Gaither, graduate student in the Yale Sch ool of Public Health, studied data from the Kids' Inpatient Database (KID), a sample of discharges from hospitals in the United States.

They analyzed the trends in serious injuries related to child abuse from 1997 to 2009.

The data also included details such as demographics, child's age, gender, race, and health insurance; whether the child died during hospitalization; and the length of hospital stay, the report said.

The researchers found that the number of cases of hospitalization due to abuse-related injuries in children has increased by 4.9 percent in the last 12 years.

According to Leventhal, the difference in results between the two studies draws attention towards the challenge of using a single source of data to track a complex problem such as child abuse.

"We also need to develop and fund effective prevention programs," said Leventhal.

The study was published in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics.

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