Risk of Fatal Injury in Young Children Following Abuse Allegations: Evidence From a Prospective, Population-Based Study


By bhadmin February 2, 2021

We examined variations in children’s risk of an unintentional or intentional fatal injury following an allegation of physical abuse, neglect, or other maltreatment.We linked records of 514 232 children born in California from 1999 to 2006 and referred to child protective services for maltreatment to vital birth and death data. We used multivariable Cox regression models to estimate variations in risk of fatal injury before age 5 years and modeled maltreatment allegations as time-varying covariates.Children with a previous allegation of physical abuse sustained fatal injuries at 1.7 times the rate of children referred for neglect. Stratification by manner of injury showed that children with an allegation of physical abuse died from intentional injuries at a rate 5 times as high as that for children with an allegation of neglect, yet faced a significantly lower risk of unintentional fatal injury.These data suggest conceptual differences between physical abuse and neglect. Findings indicate that interventions consistent with the form of alleged maltreatment may be appropriate, and heightened monitoring of young children referred for physical abuse may advance child protection.

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