Hidden victims: Child abuse goes up when economy goes down

Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

WHAT: An increase in child abuse, mostly in infants, is linked with the recent recession in new research that raises fresh concerns about the impact of the nation’s economic woes. The results are in a study of 422 abused children from mostly lower-income families, known to face greater risks for being abused, and the research involved just 74 counties in four states.

HOW:
Lead author Dr. Rachel Berger said the results confirm anecdotal reports from pediatricians who’ve seen increasing numbers of shaken-baby cases and other forms of abuse. The number of cases in the counties studied rose from 9 per 100,000 children in pre-recession years to almost 15 per 100,000 kids during the recession — a 65 percent increase.

WHY IT’S HAPPENING: Combine the stress of raising a young child with wage cuts or lost jobs and you get “a sort of toxic brew in terms of thinking about possible physical violence,” said Mark Rank, a social welfare professor at Washington University in St. Louis. He said the study echoes sociological research linking violence with declines in economic well-being.

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