As a parent, one of the worst things you can imagine is your child getting hurt. It's even more heart-wrenching to imagine them being hurt intentionally at the hands of someone else. When we have a baby, we're tasked with keeping them safe and out of harm's way. Sadly, we may not always be able to do that. There are times when we need to leave our children in the care of someone else, like a daycare provider or a babysitter, or even a friend or family member.
While the majority of the time our kids are safe and well-cared for with the people we've chosen as caregivers, we really do need to be aware of the worst-case scenarios. A new study suggests that children are more likely to be injured by abuse when they're left with a male caregiver. It's an eye-opening study, for sure.
The study was conducted by Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago and published in the Journal of Pediatrics. Researchers looked for a link between child abuse and the gender of the caregiver at the time the abuse occurred. They found that instances of child abuse went up substantially when the caregiver at the time of injury was male. If the caregiver was the boyfriend of the mother, the chances of child abuse was very high.
They also found that when caregiver arrangements were different than the usual arrangement, the odds of abuse increased. Researchers examined data on 1,615 children under the age of four who were treated at a pediatric emergency room for an injury. 24% of those cases were classified as physical abuse, and the majority of severe injuries were classified as abuse. Nearly all of the severe injury cases that occurred where a father or boyfriend was present involved child abuse.
Child abuse prevention routinely targets mothers. But as this study shows, abuse is more likely to occur when the caregiver of the child is a male, and the odds are highest when the male is the father or the boyfriend of the mother. Studies like these can be used to educate parents about leaving their children in the care of people they don't know well, and hopefully help with coming up with strategies to prevent abuse in certain situations.