The stressful effects of a faltering economy, skyrocketing unemployment and precarious personal finances can be dire. People take up smoking or use alcohol to cope, they become depressed or suicidal, and they develop stress-related illnesses like heart disease.
Now researchers report that the harm may be spreading to children too, when parents' stress leads them to injure their children, inadvertently.
Presenting May 1 at the Paediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Vancouver, a team of researchers led by child-abuse expert Dr. Rachel Berger at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh reported a significant increase in cases of shaken-baby syndrome, in which youngsters are shaken violently by an adult, since the start of the current recession.
Researchers analysed data on 512 cases of head trauma in the children's centers of four hospitals (in Pittsburgh, Pa.; Cincinnati, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; and Seattle) and found that the number of cases had increased to 9.3 per month as of Dec. 1, 2007, compared with 6 per month prior to that date — a rate that had held steady since 2004.