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Monday, September 19, 2011

Recession and Child Abuse

It will be hard over the next few days to miss the reporting of the research published in Paediatrics. The lead author, Dr. Rachel Berger notes that the research covers the period from January 2004 to June 2009. The recession was in the 2007-2009 period, although there is every reason to believe that the economic troubles her research connects to is far from over. It is also important to note that she is looking at Abusive Head Trauma which is a more dramatic form of abuse. It is often associated with individuals who are already stressed within the parent role and are thus having a great deal of difficulty coping. Unemployment and the financial pressures arising from it only serve to add to the pressures.

The research team concludes, "The rate of AHT increased significantly in 3 distinct geographic regions during the 19 months of an economic recession compared with the 47 months before the recession. This finding is consistent with our understanding of the effect of stress on violence. Given the high morbidity and mortality rates for children with AHT, these results are concerning and suggest that prevention efforts might need to be increased significantly during times of economic hardship" (p.637). 

This research highlights a powerful issue in child protection which surrounds the high incidence of poor or impoverished and stressed families in the system. We are failing to support these families. Critics of child protection take issue with the over representation of the poor and disadvantaged yet do not seem to push for the kinds of economic reforms needed to get at the root of so much child abuse - stressed parents.

The authors state, "Specifically, the presence of an association between the economy and the AHT rate should be sufficient to spur a discussion of specific stressors and mediators of these stressors and how they could be modified to decrease the risk of AHT to young children" (p.640). I doubt that it will.

As a society, we pay a huge price for poverty.

If you would like to read the whole article, it is available for free.

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