On Monday, the Associated Press (AP) reported on new research released in Pediatrics that links the recession with an increase in abusive head trauma (AHT) among children under the age of 1 year old. The report adds to a growing body of research on the link between economic downturns and increases in child abuse in the United States. The study examined counties in regions of Western Pennsylvania, Southern Ohio/Northern Kentucky and theSeattle metropolitan area and included a review of 422 cases of AHT between 2004 and 2009, predominantly involving children from low-income homes.
The study found that cases of abusive head trauma increased 65% from pre-recession years to the recession years of late 2007 through 2009. The characteristics of the victims abused during that time period experienced little change. The average age of the children, the morality rate, the percent receiving public insurance, and the number of children with siblings in the home all remained relatively stable. According to the study’s authors the small level of change in characteristics and demographics of children abused contrasted with the large increase of cases indicates that the recession was a societal-risk factor that increased the risk for everyone. Mark Rank, a professor atWashingtonUniversity inSt. Louis, cited in an interview with AP the combination of the stress of raising a young child with wage cuts or job loss, as factors for potential violence.
The study’s authors hope that their research will aid in provoking a policy discussion on the specific stressors and mediating factors related to AHT, stating that “the greatest improvement in a populations health care are likely to derive from social interventions.”