Infant abuse has another name – Shaken Baby Syndrome. Unfortunately it is all too common diagnosis that results from parents who have reached a point of uncontrollable anger without having a support system in place. There are signs that a baby has suffered this abusive situation and will have permanent brain damage. These include: difficulty breathing, inability to lift their head, trouble eating, vomiting, extreme irritability or an expressionless face.
The first few months of life can be challenging especially for new parents. Babies who are between 2 and 5 months can cry uncontrollably for no reason. The baby’s nervous system isn’t fully developed and they muscular system and brains are very fragile. Combined with a physical shaking the child can experience the resulting brain damage quite easily.
Researchers and doctors have been trying for years to be able to predict the children or families who are at risk for child abuse so that preventative measures can be instituted and permanent damage can be averted. By understanding the risk factors for infant abuse doctors can predict which families need the most resources and attention prior to any abusive actions.
In a study published in 2004 by researchers from 4 different universities in the US and Canada scientists found that most risk factors associated with infant abuse or maltreatment are found on the birth certificate of the baby. The research study incorporated the results of over 1600 children in a cohort born in 1996. The researchers looked at 15 different variables and 11 were found to be significant. (1)
Some of the risk factors included mothers who smoked during pregnancy, infants who had more than 2 siblings and mothers who are beneficiaries of Medicaid. Infants who are low birth weight or mothers who are unmarried are also at higher risk.
In another study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 2004 researchers found that although risk factors for infant abuse were easily identified by the medical system most mother’s who committed neonaticide (homicide of their infant) evaded the medical system. The study recommended that obstetricians should be well versed in picking up those risk factors in the antenatal history (history taken prior to the birth of the baby). (2)
In another research study published 2005 in the Science Daily scientists discovered that intergenerational infant abuse was more likely caused by early experiences of the mother rather than genetic inheritance. (3)
Combating infant abuse is a task that should be embraced by everyone from the medical community to infant daycare, family and friends. Abuse touches the lives of everyone in the community. Any child who experiences infant abuse is often left with permanent physical and mental damage that plagues them throughout the rest of their lives. They are unable to care for themselves as they grow older and the community must take on the cost of caring for them.
In another study researchers estimated that nearly 30 out of every 100,000 infants in the state of North Carolina are victims of Shaken Baby Syndrome. The study, published in The Journal of The American Medical Association also found that first –time parents, parents of twins and military families are at the highest risk.
(1) Child Abuse and Neglect: Risk Factors for Infant Maltreatment
(2) Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine: Perinatal Risk Factors for Neonaticide and Infant Homocide
(3) University of Chicago: Infant Abuse Linked to Early Experience, Not Genetics
Child Abuse and Neglect: Risk factors for Infant Maltreatment
ScienceDirect: Risk Fctors for Infant Maltreatment
Child Abuse and neglect: Risk Factors for Disruption in Primary Caregiving Among Infants of Substance Abusing Mothers