National data from U.S. child protective service agencies have shown a 55 percent decrease in the national incidence of substantiated cases of serious child abuse from 1992 to 2009, but there are concerns that some of this may be due to changes in reporting of cases to agencies, rather than a true lessening in child abuse cases.
A new study, "Incidence of Serious Injuries Due to Physical Abuse in the United States: 1997 to 2009," in the November 2012 Pediatrics (published online Oct. 1), tracked hospital discharge data to examine trends in serious injuries related to child abuse, and found the number of children hospitalized due to abuse-related injuries has increased slightly. Study authors examined hospital discharge data from the Kid's Inpatient Database from 1997 to 2009. Over those 12 years, they found the incidence of serious injuries due to child abuse increased 4.9 percent.
The study highlights the challenge of using a single source of data to track a complex problem such as child abuse. Study authors conclude the results highlight the need to develop and fund effective prevention programs.