Child Abuse Climbs Along With Home Foreclosures

The recession could have an impact on families that are struggling financially.

A study showed a parallel rise in home foreclosures and cases of child abuse that resulted in injury. (Photo: Fotog/Getty Images)

Jul 18, 2012
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

As home foreclosures have gone up in the past several years, so have reported cases of child abuse and head injuries, a recent online study in the journal Pediatrics reports.

Researchers looked at cases of child physical abuse and high-risk traumatic brain injury cases among children under the age of six who were admitted to 38 U.S. hospitals.

In general, physical abuse rose by 0.79 percent each year between 2000 and 2009, and traumatic brain injury increased by 3 percent a year during the same time. Overall injury rates dropped by 0.8 percent a year in the same period.

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The economy took a dive toward the end of that nine-year span, and thousands of families went into foreclosure on their homes. Another report showed that foreclosures in some communities paralleled an upsurge in hospital visits for mental health issues.

Crunching the data, researchers discovered that every 1 percent increase in 90-day mortgage delinquencies over a year was linked with a 3 percent increase in child physical abuse-related hospital admissions, and a five percent bump in traumatic brain injury admissions believed to be from child abuse. No association was seen between child abuse admissions and unemployment rates.

The authors noted that the figures only showed a relationship between foreclosures and abuse, and not a cause and effect.

"A study like this cannot tell us what stressors may be impacting an individual family, but can illustrate the toll that the recent recession may be having on families in general, in this country," said senior author Dr. David Rubin in a news release. Rubin, an attending pediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, added,  “It is a reminder to me that when I see families in my practice who have lost their insurance or who have changed homes, to probe a little further about the challenges they are facing. As communities, we all need to reach out a little more to identify which families may be in crisis and help guide them to appropriate resources for support.”

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