The risk of serious physical abuse is highest among infants under the age of 1, a new study shows.
Researchers looked at nearly 15,000 children younger than 16 who were treated for severe injuries at hospitals in England and Wales between 2004 and 2013. Of those injuries, 92 percent were accidental, 2.5 percent were the result of fights and 5 percent were caused by abuse.
Among children with abuse-related injuries, 98 percent were younger than 5, and 76 percent were less than a year old. Abuse-related injuries were more severe and more likely to involve the head/brain than accidental injuries.
Abused children were also three times more likely to die of their injuries than other children in the study, 7.6 percent vs. 2.6 percent.
Boys accounted for 59 percent of abuse victims and 89 percent of those treated for injuries caused by fights or accidents, according to the study published online Nov. 23 in the Emergency Medicine Journal.
While young children accounted for the vast majority of abuse victims in this study, it doesn’t meant that older children don’t suffer abuse, noted the researchers led by Dr. Ffion Davies, an emergency medicine consultant from University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust in England.
“It may simply be that the more robust physique of an older child means that major trauma is more difficult to inflict,” the researchers suggested.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers resources on preventing child abuse and neglect.