Accidents and injuries can happen no matter how experienced a caregiver may be. But a new study has found evidence to suggest that the likelihood of accidental or intentional injury increases when a child is left in the presence of a male caregiver.
The new study, which was published in The Journal of Paediatrics, argues that a child is smore likely to be injured if a male is present, whether it be a parent, family member, or babysitter. It looked at data from 1,615 children, all of which were younger than 4-years old. Additionally, all children studied had either been taken to their family doctor’s or the emergency room after sustaining an injury.
In their conclusion, the study found that seventy-seven percent of all the cases they looked at could be classified as abuse, and nearly all of these cases involved a male caregiver, particularly fathers and boyfriends. Even more alarming, the research found that injuries tended to be more severe if it happens around a male caregiver. The risk for abuse and injury also increased when the childcare arrangements were different than usual. In contrast, these figures were much lower when it came to female caregivers.
"Given that we found strong associations between certain caregiver features and the likelihood of abuse, it is vitally important for clinicians evaluating the child to ask about who was present at the time of injury," Mary Clyde Pierce, the lead author behind the study, said of the newfound research. Pierce works at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.
These findings are important because they can help improve early recognition of abuse, as well as help provide more insight into abuse prevention strategies. Dr. Pierce argued prevention strategies need to be targeted towards fathers and other male caregivers just as much as they are emphasized for mothers.
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"Child abuse prevention efforts frequently target mothers, but our study confirms previous research that the presence of male caregivers poses a greater risk of abuse, so the focus must shift for prevention strategies to be successful," she said.
Additionally, Dr. Pierce emphasized that parents should stick to a consistent caregiver routine to avoid increasing the risk of child injury. This includes not relying on people the parents barely know to look after their kids. "Future prevention strategies also should educate parents that leaving their young children in the care of people unfamiliar with the challenges of caregiving, even for brief periods of time, can be dangerous,” she explained.