Infant boys born to younger, unmarried mothers faced a significantly higher likelihood of suffering serious or fatal head injuries from abuse than infant girls or children under age 2 with older, married mothers, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study showed. Infants born to non-white mothers or who were first born also faced a higher risk of such injuries, scientists found.
"We did this research because inflicted head trauma, also called shaken baby syndrome, is one of the leading causes of death due to child abuse," said lead investigator Dr. Heather T. Keenan, research assistant professor of social medicine at the UNC School of Medicine. "Since there were no population-based estimates of how many children were being hurt, we conducted a population-based study to try and find out what the incidence of inflicted traumatic brain injury was.
"Also, we wanted to know which children were getting hurt," Keenan said. "We found that approximately 30 per 100,000 children under age 1 suffered inflicted brain injuries."
Having younger mothers and being under age 1 were risk factors, but the injuries occur in all racial and socioeconomic groups, she said.
"To our knowledge, ours is the first study of its kind to quantify shaken baby syndrome in the nation's youngest children."
A report on the findings appears in the Aug. 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Keenan and colleagues identified all N.C. children ages 2 years and younger admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit in the state or who died from a brain injury in 2000 and 2001. Members of the team contacted charge nurses at each of the state's n
Contact: David Williamson
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill