All Shook Up

Published January 1, 2003

If the rest of the country is anything like North Carolina, an estimated 1,300 U.S. children will suffer severe or fatal head trauma from child abuse.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill discovered that infant boys born to younger, unmarried mothers faced a bigger likelihood of serious or fatal head injuries from abuse than infant girls or children under age 2 with older, married mothers. Infants born to non-white mothers or who were first born also faced a higher risk of such injuries. Having a young mother and being under age 1 were risk factors; the injuries occurred in all racial and socioeconomic groups.

Further analysis showed infants born to single mothers were at eight times the risk of children whose fathers lived at home. Infants whose mothers had more than a high school education faced a lower risk.

The research was done because inflicted head trauma, also called shaken baby syndrome, is one of the leading causes of death due to child abuse.

Researchers identified children age 2 years and younger admitted to a pediatric intensive care unit or who died from a brain injury in 2000 and 2001.

Although the study is confined to one state, researchers believe the incidence figures to be generally representative of what happens across the nation.

IT’S YOUR HEALTH is written by Conrad Meier, senior fellow in health policy at The Heartland Institute. This program is produced as a public service by Radio America. Meier passed away unexpectedly on March 18, 2005.