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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How Recession May Lead to Child Abuse

A recent study shows that the economic recession today causes an increase in child abuse, particularly in infants. The Pediatrics Journal published the five-year study online. The study observed child abuse in four states, concentrating in 74 of its counties. According to the report, pediatricians have seen increasing numbers of violent head trauma and shaken baby syndrome. The study was conducted by Dr. Rachel P. Berger from Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. She noticed a growing trend on the cases of shaken baby syndrome from late 2007 until June 2009 (Myers, p. 256). The cases reached an annual average of 30 cases whereas the average annual rate before 2007 was 17 cases. She decided to make a study.

Although the abuse is not very common, the increase in the number of cases in these counties was harsh. The ratio of 9 kids per 100,000 sharply rose to almost 15 kids per 100,000 kids on the recession years (Tanner, p.1). It was a disturbing 65% increase. Unemployment in the 74 counties during the study was high. The ratio of kids on Medicaid rose from 77% before recession to 83% during recession.

What factors led to child abuse? Mark Rank, a professor on social welfare at Washington University in St. Louis stated that lost jobs or even wage cuts plus the stress of rearing children will produce “a sort of toxic brew in terms of thinking about physical violence.” He further stated that the study confirms the sociological researches that link violence with decrease in the economic well being.

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The study was conducted on the counties of western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh, southern and central Ohio, and several counties in the Seattle area and Northern Kentucky. The subjects of the study were 422 children with abusive head trauma. There were 65 cases annually before the recession against 108 yearly during recession. The researchers analyzed the medical records and the labor statistics for 2004 until November 2007 and compared them side by side with the data from recession years.

Data from federal government imply that the recession had not affected child abuse. But the authors of the study clarified that their findings were based on actual reports that came from child protection agencies, not from medical diagnoses.

The study is not a proof that recession causes child abuse. Dr. Peter Sherman, residency program director of Social Pediatrics at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, said that the study must be conducted on different regions. He added that it must focus on more children from middle class families to aid in the verification if recession actually triggers child abuse. Sherman however noted that recession can really affect families with lower income and the study was a “very important issue.”

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