According to recent statistics, serious physical abuse of kids has risen slightly in the US, according to hospital data.
Yale University released details of the study on Monday, which contradicts reports from child protective service agencies across the country. Though CPS statistics have shown child abuse has declined by almost half, the Yale study showed that child abuse cases based on hospital data have actually risen slightly in the 12 years leading up to 2009, reports Medical News Today.
Experts say that the Yale study shows that health officials need to take a better look at whether child abuse is getting better, worse, or staying the same and warns against the dangers of over-reliance on one source of information.
“I think it’s premature to make any conclusions about whether it is going up or down,” says Dr. James Anderst, chief of the section on child abuse and neglect at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Mo., who was not involved in the study. “Medical providers may be getting better at identifying abuse over time.”
Still, the fact that child abuse is still happening is a concern, says Dr. John Leventhal of Yale University, who led the study.
“Maybe parents are doing better and hurting their children less in general, but there is a small group where there continue to be substantial injuries that end in hospitalization,” Leventhal said.
The Yale study specifically found that serious cases of physical abuse in children in the United States rose by five percent between 1997 and 2009. Serious physical abuse includes head injuries, burns, and fractures. In the same period, CPS reports showed a decline of 55 percent in child abuse cases, reports NBC News.
The sharp difference between the two sets of data does bear some explanation. First, CPS figures may be different due to changes in reporting practices. Second, CPS might be counting all cases of child abuse instead of the most severe cases, which Yale focused on. So, while overall, less children might be suffering parental abuse, those that do are more severely abused.
“Parents need to believe that the people close to them might have the potential to lose it with a frustrating circumstance such as a crying baby,” Leventhal advised. “They need to say each of the people who looks after their child, ‘my baby cries sometimes and it gets frustrating. If you feel that way, call me. I will come home from work. But don’t hurt my baby’.”