Studies show child abuse increases during recessions

Recession During a recession the loss of jobs results in added stress, anxiety, and depression for those unfortunate enough to be severely impacted by an economic downtown.  Sadly, that implications of a economic downturn trickle downward and affects the children of those who have lost jobs or other revenue streams.  Studies have proven that during economic downturns, the rate of child abuse cases does indeed rise.

Incidents of child head injuries resulting from child abuse, including shaken baby syndrome, skyrocketed immediately after the beginning of the 2007 recession.  Doctors in hospitals across the country noticed an increase in abuse related injuries, particularly head injuries that result when, out of frustration, a parent violently shakes a baby or young child.  This prompted research studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Pediatric Academic Societies which concluded that the doctor’s observations were correct.  Examining data from nearly two decades of child abuse reports and economic data, they announced that “over the 18 year period, when employment went up or down, maltreatment went up or down with a one year delay.”

In addition, Dr. Rachel Berger, lead researcher for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh noted in May 2010, “Our results show that there has been a rise in abusive head trauma, that it coincided with the economic recession, and that it’s not a phenomenon isolated to our region but happening on a much more widespread level.  This suggests we may need to dramatically increase our child abuse prevention efforts now and in future times of economic hardship.”

Unemployment status in particular, tied in closely with child abuse trends.  Child maltreatment increases with a rise in unemployment with the abuse cases coming about a year after the unemployment rise.  For every 1% increase in unemployment, abuse cases rose .5%, meaning maltreatment increases with a rise in unemployment with the increased in abuse cases coming about a year after the unemployment rise.  In addition, it was discovered that states with higher unemployment rates have higher rates of child abuse too.  Discovering why child abuse cases increase was tackled next.

Researchers knew that over 90% of child related head injuries happen to kids on Medicaid (of those, about 16% die) indicating economic status is a factor in child abuse.  During recessionary times, federal aid in programs such as Medicaid and unemployment benefits is usually increased.  On the other hand, recessionary times also result in a decrease in social services offered as a means for the federal government to cut expenditures.  In times of increased family stress, which is a known factor for child abuse, the expenditures towards programs designed to prevent child abuse and assist child abuse victims, is cut, often as much as 15%.


Time Magazine
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