Incidence and Risk Factors for Abusive Head Trauma: A Population-Based Study

Rebecca Rebbe, Joseph A Mienko, Melissa L Martinson
Child Abuse Review 2020, 29 (3): 195-207
Previous studies on Abusive Head Trauma (AHT) suggest incidence may vary by geographic location and there is limited information regarding population-based risk factors on this form of child maltreatment. This study provides new knowledge regarding these two aspects using the population of the US state of Washington born between 1999 and 2013. We used a linked administrative dataset comprised of birth, hospital discharge, child protective services (CPS) and death records to identify the scale and risk factors for AHT for the state population using quantitative survival methods. We identified AHT using diagnostic codes in hospital discharge records defined by the US Centers for Disease Control. A total of 354 AHT hospitalisations were identified and the incidence for the state was 22.8 per 100 000 children under the age of one. Over 11 per cent of these children died. Risk factors included a teenaged mother at the time of birth, births paid for using public insurance, child's low birth weight, and maternal Native American race. The strongest risk factor was a prior CPS allegation, a similar finding to a California study on injury mortality. The practice and policy implications of these findings are discussed.

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