Child Abuse (cont.)

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What causes child abuse deaths?

The most lethal form of child abuse is neglect. Deaths from neglect can be caused by accidents due to lack of supervision or abandonment or from the failure to seek medical attention for an injury, illness, or condition.

Fatal injuries from mistreatment can and do result from many different acts. Children may die from severe head trauma (injury), shaken baby syndrome, trauma to the abdomen or chest, scalding, burns, drowning, suffocation, poisoning, starvation, etc.

Data from 2011 report 1,570 deaths with 82% of victims less than 4 years of age and 42% (534 children) less than 1 year of age. More than three-quarters (78%) are victims of parental abuse. Of the 1,570 fatalities, 59% were boys and 41% were girls. These data are representative of the reporting from 2006 through 2011. Within this time frame, 2009 had the highest number of childhood child abuse murders (1,740 children).

What factors predispose a person to child abuse?

Specialists evaluating an abused child's environment and family background have noted several risk factors for potential abuse:

  1. The abuser's childhood: Approximately 20% of offenders were themselves abused as children.
  2. The abuser's substance abuse: Children in alcohol-abusing families are nearly four times more likely to be mistreated, almost five times more likely to be physically neglected, and 10 times more likely to be emotionally neglected than children in non-alcohol-abusing families. Of all child-abuse cases, 50%-80% involve some degree of substance abuse by the child's parents.
  3. Family stress: The disintegration of the nuclear family and its inherent support systems has been held to be associated with child abuse.
  4. Social forces: Experts debate whether a presumed reduction in religious/moral values coupled with an increase in the depiction of violence by the entertainment and informational media may increase child abuse.
  5. The child: Children at higher risk for abuse include infants who are felt to be "overly fussy," handicapped children, and children with chronic diseases.

Specific "trigger" events that occur just before many fatal parental assaults on infants and young children include an infant's inconsolable crying, feeding difficulties, a toddler's failed toilet training, and exaggerated parental perceptions of acts of "disobedience" by the child.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/17/2013

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