Infants at greatest risk for child abuse
February 6th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Infants at greatest risk for child abuse

Nearly 7% of abused children, who end up in the hospital die because of the abuse. And the children at greatest risk for suffering from serious physical abuse? Infants under the age of one.

A new study released today, in the journal Pediatrics, surveyed nearly 4,000, or almost 89%, of hospitals across the nation to get a sense of just how many children suffered from serious injuries due to physical abuse. This was the first national study to really look at serious injuries due to abuse.

The study looked at the 2006 Kids Inpatient Database from the Department of Health and Human Services, that tracked patients under the age of 18, and the reasons for hospitalization. The authors found that nearly 4,600 children went to the hospital that year because of abuse, which was determined by the attending physician. Doctors used the International Classification of Disease to qualify abuse. Symptoms that counted as abuse included shaken infant syndrome, fractures, traumatic brain injuries, abdominal injuries, burns, and open wounds.

The study found that for every 100,000 children, 6 were seriously abused. For children under one, the likelihood increased by more than 8 times. So, for every 100,000 infants, 58 came into hospital to be treated because of physical abuse. This is higher than the rate of infants impacted by Sudden Infant Death syndrome - 50 infant deaths for every 100,000.

Infants covered by Medicaid, were at greatest risk ,with every one in 752 infants being seriously abused.

Overall, children on Medicaid were about 6 times more likely to be abused over children not covered by Medicaid.

According to Karel Amaranth, executive director of the J.E.&Z.B. Butler Child Advocacy Center with the Children's Hospital at Montefiore, there is a strong association between poverty and child abuse. She points out to stresses such as “stressful economic situations and lack of support for young mothers,” as some of the factors facing those who are impoverished. However, she was quick to note that sometimes it is easier for those in higher economic situations to also hide abuse.

According to the study, abused children stayed in the hospital nearly twice as long as non-abused children. And their hospital costs reflected that. On average, hospital costs for abused children were around $16,000 or adding up to $74 million dollars annually.

But, both Amaranth and the study’s authors caution that these numbers may be underreported as their study only looked at children who were hospitalized. The study did not account for children who were never hospitalized or died before getting treatment.

At the J.E. & Z.B. Butler Child Advocacy Center, Amaranth says “we see over 1,000 children a year, who come to the clinic, many of them never go to the hospital.” The study estimated that only 1.5% of all abused children actually go to the hospital for treatment.

But there is still value in these numbers, and Amaranth hopes that they grab people’s attention. “I think it’s so valuable when studies come out, because it causes people to question and relate to the numbers. It gives us a snapshot of what’s going on. But no one should feel that this is the definitive idea of what child abuse is.”

soundoff (735 Responses)
  1. Portland tony

    From the womb, an unwanted, neglected and unloved child is born! Who is there to care, love and nurture this child of God. WHO?

    February 6, 2012 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • johnkeating

      [to newborn:] Welcome to planet Earth!

      February 6, 2012 at 13:31 | Report abuse |
    • Opp

      The state.

      February 6, 2012 at 15:44 | Report abuse |
    • Preschool Abuse

      As I read about Raintree Academy, Spring, Texas 77373, I find it horrific it took so long for authorities to investigate child abuse and read one of the workers was arrested too.


      March 10, 2012 at 23:55 | Report abuse |
  2. hohoho

    keep the welfare checks coming and other aid and this will only get worse, i can promise that.

    February 6, 2012 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Portland tony

      Welfare checks do not stop anyone from abusing children. Many use them to help keep their wanted children from starving in these times of economic distress. Again, who is there to protect the unwanted and unloved. Groups will fight to see them born...but have no answer or help for those unwanted babies once they are!

      February 6, 2012 at 10:20 | Report abuse |
    • Sarah

      When you see how far someone can go with education it's amazing anyone would want to stay in the slums having everybody's baby.

      February 6, 2012 at 12:06 | Report abuse |
    • Hatixhe

      Do you mean these parent(s) use welfare checks to buy drugs? I believe this.

      February 6, 2012 at 12:07 | Report abuse |
    • Opp

      hohoho, where's your evidence for this statement?

      February 6, 2012 at 15:45 | Report abuse |
    • nonono

      Poverty is the cause of much of the stress that leads to abuse. The main cluprit behind poverty is lack of a good education. If Republicans stop cutting funding to education, abusive situations will wane. I can promise you that.

      February 6, 2012 at 15:53 | Report abuse |
    • Tony

      I was going to say the same thing about incentivizing the yearly welfare check birth

      February 6, 2012 at 19:11 | Report abuse |
    • Katie

      Yes, cut off all funding. Make sure the child is born into abject poverty and without hope. That will certainly make sure there is no abuse or neglect going on and that the child will grow up healthy and strong, not turning to drugs or violence.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:32 | Report abuse |
  3. Nancy

    Hjmmh. HB b en

    February 6, 2012 at 10:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. TwinkyHead

    It's so sad to see that children are being abused, let alone infants! This should really be stopped. No child should ever be abused by their own parents.

    February 6, 2012 at 10:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Agrav8td

    Why bother having birth control if no one is going to use it?

    February 6, 2012 at 12:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Portland tony

    Children can be abused in many ways. Physical assault is just one. How about mental abuse? Unhealthy food, filthy living conditions, sexual exploitation All this doesn't take place in the Ghetto. The family pediatricians who look the other way when a wealthy family brings their child in with obvious symptoms of abuse. It's just not the poor that abuse their kids...Cruelty has no economic boundaries. The only reason poor kids do get to the ER is because someone did care

    February 6, 2012 at 13:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Liviu

      that there should be no human faces on fceobaok, but all profile pictures must be cartoon characters. (To remember your childhood).Some people say that it is pointless, as it cannot actually do anything,but in my opinion it does do something; it shows moral and emotional support for those supporting the fight against child abuse. It shows that we as a society believe that child abuse is wrong, and it reminds us of our own childhoods. Whether these were bad or good childhoods, it can help us see that child abuse is wrong. (Those with bad childhoods may want to make sure that history is not repeated for other people, and those with good chidhoods will want to make sure that other children have the same kind of childhood). So please change your profile picture to show your support and beliefs!References : (( ME ))

      April 8, 2012 at 16:44 | Report abuse |
  7. Sara

    Obviously the culprit here is socialized medicine. Medicaid causes child abuse.

    February 6, 2012 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Rich

    You know how you prevent SIDS...STOP VACCINATING.....

    February 6, 2012 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • babydoc123

      Not that I agree with your logic but in doing so then the rates of infant mortality from Pertussis, Pneumococcal pneumonia, HIB meningitis, and influenza will increase. I guess you have to pick your poison. I have seen way more infants die from pertussis (whooping cough) obtained from unvaccinated siblings/parents than I have seen die of SIDS.

      February 7, 2012 at 12:35 | Report abuse |
  9. Nettie

    When you consider the fate of many unwanted and unloved babies; abortion seems so much more humane than being beaten to death!

    February 6, 2012 at 14:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • jack johnson

      You noticed prolifers are staying out of this debate!

      February 6, 2012 at 15:21 | Report abuse |
    • Mom of 2

      I agree! In the debate of Abuse versus Abortion, abortion does seem a more humane option.

      February 6, 2012 at 16:32 | Report abuse |
    • kasmin

      i didnt use to beleive in abortion in any way, but now i feel that abortion should be in place if someone is not considering adoption and doesnt love that baby or cant provide or has no income or no help and is at risk for being too exausted to figure out why their little baby is crying, instead jsut et frustrated and beat, punch, burn, ect the child like thats goin ot make them stop crying..i havent bee able to sleep well or wake up well or walk around well or hold my 3 year old son or 5 month old baby without ondering for hours how could someone hurt a innocent little precious happy, sweet bundle og joy, evey child is a bundle of joy, they smile when there are things to smile, they laugh, and coo and ect..they have no other means of communicating so how on earth can you be trusted with a life you brought in this world and brutally, with no empathy hurt that infna tor toddler ect for crying, maybe they were just hungary, or over sleepy or cold or had an itch...im just borthed, disgusted, upset and eternaly hurt that this is goin on, just thinkin gof all the parents trusted to protect and care for a helpless infant and to take that baby home an deither the parent theirselves or another person beating, throwing, punchin, penetrating , burning, slapping, a infant , toddler, child. that child has to be so scared or maybe worse not scared due to being treated so bad from birth until their young death..i cant stop crying, and being depressed. eveytime i walk into my sons room to his crib, i just imagine what those infants go through, how can any human fondle, penetrate with a child or infant and not feel discusted and want to kill their selves ..how can u touch a helpless little bundle and vio;late that baby, im so scared for all the children excpecially infants who are so tiny and fragile and new to the world. all abuse is wrong to any agge young or old, but it somehow gets to me with infants so much more!!! i think i need counseling after seeing news artciles of a mother burnig her 2 week old baby and a mother settin her7 week old baby wash tub with the babys head directley under 142 degree water because the baby woudlnt stop crying she admitted and admitted he cried during the entire incident so what was her point in doin it in the firs tplace, peopl ehave issues, two paretns arrested for raping and beating 1 month old son to death...the list gows on and on and on..i would like to help but how can we help, this is a major issue and cannot be helped by just one person, there should be some sort of pshycologocal testing or follow ups with chilkdren from birth till adult. i know its far fetch but it needs ot be done

      May 16, 2012 at 02:40 | Report abuse |
  10. ghj

    So if children on Midicaid are 6 times more likely to be abused, what does that tell you? Women on government assistance should not be allowed to have babies. Or at least not allowed to keep them. If they insist on going forward with a pregnancy they must place the child up for adoption.

    I realize I am talking about government dollars and religious issues but what's the point of having a child if you're only going to abuse it?

    That should not be allowed. A child, particularly a young child, just like a fetus cannot speak up for itself and cannot protect itself.

    It is up to us as a supposed civilized society to protect children.

    February 6, 2012 at 15:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tami

      Many working families are also on medicaid. Infact many military service members with kids also get some assistance. The average junior enlistee earns about 15,000 per year. Do you think he and his wife should be punished if they have a baby? Be careful what you say. The article states that findings show children who have been hospitalized for abuse have a correlation with medicaid. However, it cautions that those with more money may be able to conceal abuse better. Many have private family doctors who would never report them. So, please do not label all people getting help. This is the reason why some women have stayed in abusive relationships. They have small kids and they don't want to be labeled as one of those women on welfare and they stay until they are beaten to death! Shame on you and I bet you call yourself a Christian. Well, get with the Christ like program and care for the least among you and cast not the first stone....

      February 7, 2012 at 06:07 | Report abuse |
    • S

      Many of medicaid are victims of poverty and often generations of abuse. With that being said, those are a small portion of those on welfare. How dare you say that a mother should lose her child because she is poor! There are MANY loving poor families, who likely are more humane than you will ever be. There are plenty of evil wealthy parents out there who are not fit to be parents- many of them have means to cover up the abuse or pay to have another person to take care of their child. MONEY has given them a way to prevent abuse because they have HELP. And what about the expensive boarding schools? Send you chidl away (so they aren't abused) and as such you emotionally damage your child because you ABANDONED them all in the name of "education" COME on.... abuse exists in ALL walks of life

      February 7, 2012 at 11:59 | Report abuse |
    • Katie

      It's not the assistance, it's the reasons for the need for assistance: POVERTY. People living in poverty are far more likely to be stressed out trying to make ends meet, undereducated, and extremely desperate. The ignorance and bias in making the absurd assumption that if one doesn't have assistance once won't abuse their children is appalling.

      February 7, 2012 at 21:58 | Report abuse |
  11. Barb

    The vast majority of child abuse cases are due to so called "men" because they want to but cannot control a crying child.

    February 6, 2012 at 20:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Jess

    A colicky, screaming baby can push anyone to the limits especially a parent that has been sleep deprived. It does not matter whether they are poor and wealthy, whether the child was unwanted or deeply desired and awaited with great impatiance and love. However, there is NO Excuse to act on the anger. People please get help...

    February 6, 2012 at 20:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. sharts

    Yea. You see, its because they are helpless. How long did this 'study' take?

    February 6, 2012 at 21:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. amanda

    most of these comments are stupid.. you can't stop child abuse which is quite unfortunate.. sompe people are just that cruel. being on medicaid does not cause abuse or does it meant that child will be abused. my sister had 3 babies on medicaid and they're not abused IN ANYWAY.

    February 7, 2012 at 02:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. amanda

    GRRR.. stupid types

    February 7, 2012 at 02:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. amanda


    February 7, 2012 at 02:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Kate

    When I was in the hospital having my son, my husband and I were told by the nurses never to shake a baby. It was something that I was already aware of, but I'm glad that she told us anyway. If poverty is a risk factor for abuse of infants, maybe the system needs to educate poor mothers about child abuse and the risk of leaving a newborn with the wrong person such as a boyfriend or non-relative. Most of the stories in the news about babies dying from shaken baby syndrome were babies that were left by the mother with either the father or a boyfriend. One thing the article doesn't mention is who is most likely to abuse infants? Is it most often the mother or the father? Or is it a non-relative, such as a babysitter or boyfriend? For instance if it is most often males that abuse babies, shouldn't young mothers be made aware of this fact so they take that into consideration when leaving their baby in someone else's care? I certainly think that finding a way to educate poor women about the dangers of child abuse would go along way to help prevent infant/child abuse from taking place.

    February 7, 2012 at 03:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. kim

    This is really sad. It seems that if one is born to bad parents, there's almost nothing that can be done.

    There's a lot of talk on here about poverty and welfare being a cause of abuse but I'm fairly certain that abuse crosses over into every socioeconomic status. People need to read and educate themselves and not make assumptions. Prejudice doesn't help solve society's problems.

    February 7, 2012 at 09:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Katie

    Where oh where is the complete outrage of those who call themselves Pro Life? Where are their offers to adopt, to tighten laws, to work toward the protection of the innocent born? Where are their words of wisdom, their Bible quotes, their picket lines?

    February 7, 2012 at 12:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Carlyn Larson

    I would like to see a study on the incidence of child abuse relative to the number of abusers who practice Back To Sleep regardless of a child's preference. In my experience, the night we let our son sleep on his tummy was the night we starting getting longer periods of sleep. Tired, stressed babies are not easy to deal with. Tired stressed parents don't always parent well. Add in poverty and it's a recipe for abuse IMHO.

    February 7, 2012 at 13:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Joe G

    The unfortunate thing here is that there are signs, always there are signs. They may be subtle but they are there. A lot of this could be stopped if someone just speaks up. I just had a daughter and I have been pushed to the limits, being sleep deprived, the screaming, but I chose to put my baby in her crib and leave the room. I would take a couple of minutes gather myself and then go back in and try to soothe her. All I ask is that if you see signs or even if you think you see signs say something. The thought of a child suffering should far outweigh the fear of saying something.

    February 7, 2012 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. badMAMAjama

    I can't believe this crap. People on medicaid are more likely to abuse their child?? This was a crappy article, written by a crappy author, about nothing but NON-FACTS!!! And all you people commenting, agreeing with this BS, can seriously find a bridge and jump off! Really.

    February 7, 2012 at 14:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. A

    Interesting subject, but this article is very, very poorly written. The author has no concept of the proper use of commas and uses short, choppy sentences that make fluid reading impossible. Time to take a writing class or two, Nadia.

    February 7, 2012 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. hope

    i can tell you as a FORMER assistance recipient that not only are my children well cared for but have NEVER been abused. how dare you assume that every recipient is an abuser!! i have sacrificed everything for my children and would do it again in a heartbeat. when i lost the job i was promised after maternity leave and could not get unemployment to fill the gap i had no choice but to get welfare to take care of my child. then i Permanently injured my back after going through a year of training to change careers i am a highly trained professional and could easily earn 45 to 50,000 a year if i was physically able. now i am a sahm and about to take my training and expertise and start my own business around my childrens needs. people like you make me sick! i have worked my azz off only to end up homeless and in need we are not all the same and i will say let someone come to my door saying they are gonna take my babies! they will not walk away i can promise that!

    February 7, 2012 at 17:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. B_RN

    One solution is to go back to the public health home visiting policy that was in place until the mid- seventies. Public health nurses visited all newborns in major cities. ( I did so in Boston.) Nurses were salaried. Home visits continued after the initial visit, if the nurse recognized medical and/or parenting issues that indicated further education and support was warranted. It was more cost effective than the present system of insurer approved home visits. Public health nurses were assigned neighborhoods in the city, and were familiar with the families and resources available.

    February 8, 2012 at 23:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. tino

    so what are we going to do now. hope this is for a good reason.

    February 19, 2012 at 15:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. TruthBeToldCps

    Your comments are ignorant, You should be investigating the doctors who harm our childfren at birth If other people have to be punished then why should the Doctors that hurt our life and destroy our lives be able to walk free. Medicaid is there to help families i need look at this country, This is all the governments fault. The media and hospitals and paid lawyers will always cover up the truth. If the doctors make a accident ok we can forgive but we can not forget the damage hey done to our children and innocent families pay the consequence because the doctors and the government and cps have money. Maybe you should investigate......

    April 11, 2012 at 19:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. seongsil

    it should be 48 not 58, because 6 times 8 is 48. right?

    November 12, 2012 at 20:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Sharidan Bell

    Child abuse is a rough topic to think about. I am a college student who just had to read the book "A Child Called "it"" and it made me realize how bad child abuse is. I am going to school to be a teacher and I know as being a teacher i will have to know the signs of child abuse. I dont know how any parent could treat a child with that kind of abuse. A child is innocent and cant defend themself. So knowing and being able to spot the signs should be taught to more people so they abuse in children could be lessened.

    November 14, 2012 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
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