The long-standing notion that winter months, and especially winter holidays, are a time of increased child abuse has been challenged in a new study.
The study of homicides of 797 children younger than age five has found that these deaths occur uniformly throughout the year.
"The seasonality of child abuse is clearly a myth," said Antoinette Laskey, associate professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, who led the study.
"We looked at the statistics of fatalities related to child abuse in geographically disparate states to see whether or not there were any patterns and there were none. As we noted in our study, it is possible that the reason child abuse is believed to increase during the holidays is because an abused child seen on a memorable day like Christmas may be easier for a healthcare provider to recall because of the association with the holiday," added Laskey.
Children were found to be equally at risk of homicide death during any month of the year.
"Since there is no reason to believe that child abuse deaths occur at differing rates throughout the year, it is important to keep in mind that prevention should be a year round effort. The fact is common stressors on caregivers, like crying, toileting accidents and normal childhood behavioural issues such as temper tantrums happen all year long. We need to teach caregivers how to respond better to these issues," said Laskey.
The study appears in the July 2010 issue of The Journal of Paediatrics.