Minority children more likely to be evaluated for physical abuse

Philadelphia, Pa. Minority children are more likely to be evaluated for physical abuse and reported to authorities than white children with comparable injuries, say researchers who studied hospital records at an urban pediatric hospital. Researchers at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found that African-American and Latino toddlers with accidental injuries were over five times more likely than Caucasian toddlers to receive a skeletal survey, an examination ordered when a physician suspects abuse.

Researchers, who studied hospital records for 388 children younger than age 3 who were hospitalized for fractures at Children's Hospital between 1994 and 2000, report their findings in the October 2 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. Of the records studied, many of the children had been referred from other hospitals, and it was not always clear whether the referring hospital or Children's Hospital performed the survey or filed the report.

"Although rates of substantiated physical abuse have been reported to be higher in minority children than in Caucasian children, it is unclear whether abuse actually occurs more frequently or whether it is more likely to be reported in minority children," said senior author Cindy W. Christian, M.D., a child abuse expert and co-director of Safe Place: The Center for Child Protection and Health at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

"Previous reports have suggested that minority children are over-represented in child abuse reporting, and Caucasian children are under-represented," she added. "Our study lends support to those findings." The study was the first to examine racial differences in evaluating and reporting fractures of the arms, legs or skull in children. The researchers did not include children with fractures from car crashes or with injuries in which the responsible party admitted committing abuse.

Dr. Christian's team found that under further analysis, abusive

Contact: John Ascenzi
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

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