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Study examines link between economic downturn, increased child abuse

Many people have posited over a long period that domestic violence incidents tend to increase during times of economic difficulties, given the obvious stresses that can attach to families suffering from loss of employment and an inability to meet basic housing, health, food and other needs.

An ambitious study that was recently completed and now appears in the online version of Pediatrics magazine takes a close look at the perceived nexus between rates of domestic abuse and economic downturn.

The findings are certainly interesting. The research was carried out by doctors at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, with those researchers analyzing discharge data from 38 hospitals nationwide. The study looks specifically at physical abuse and brain injury suffered by children, comparing the rate of reported instances over many years to factors such as unemployment rate, mortgage delinquency and foreclosure rates in the various metropolitan areas surveyed.

The central finding: Although the period 2000 - 2009 was marked by falling admissions rates overall for "all-cause" injuries to children younger than six years old, that outcome was not seen in two distinct areas, namely, physical abuse and traumatic brain injury.

Researchers uncovered troubling statistics in these areas, with an increase of child hospitalization rates of close to 0.80 percent for physical abuse and more than three percent for brain injuries. The admission rate for these areas was highest in 2008, a time marked by a sharp economic fallout and recession for the country.

The researchers are careful not to flatly state that there is a proven and well-established connection between child abuse rates and economic conditions. They do state, though, that their findings lend support for further examination into how to mitigate risk for children when there is a sharp downturn in the economy.

Source: MedPage Today, "Tanking economy may mean kids suffer more abuse," Nancy Walsh, July 16, 2012

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