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Abusive head trauma in young children in the Netherlands: evidence for multiple incidents of abuse

Authors

  • Tessa Sieswerda-Hoogendoorn,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Radiology, Academic Medical Center/Emma Children's Hospital, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
    • Section of Forensic Pediatrics, Department of Forensic Medicine, Netherlands Forensic Institute, the Hague, the Netherlands
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  • Rob AC Bilo,

    1. Section of Forensic Pediatrics, Department of Forensic Medicine, Netherlands Forensic Institute, the Hague, the Netherlands
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  • Lonneke LBM van Duurling,

    1. Forensic Medical Child Abuse Center, Utrecht, the Netherlands
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  • Wouter A Karst,

    1. Section of Forensic Pediatrics, Department of Forensic Medicine, Netherlands Forensic Institute, the Hague, the Netherlands
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  • Jolanda M Maaskant,

    1. Department of Pediatrics, Emma Children's Hospital Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
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  • Wim MC van Aalderen,

    1. Department of Pediatrics, Emma Children's Hospital Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
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  • Rick R van Rijn

    1. Section of Forensic Pediatrics, Department of Forensic Medicine, Netherlands Forensic Institute, the Hague, the Netherlands
    2. Department of Radiology, Academic Medical Center/Emma Children's Hospital, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
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Correspondence

Tessa Sieswerda-Hoogendoorn, Department of Medical Forensic Investigation, Netherlands Forensic Institute, P.O. Box 24044, 2490 AA Den Haag, the Netherlands.

Tel: (070) 888 66 66 |

Fax: (070) 888 65 55 |

Email: t.sieswerda@amc.nl

Abstract

Aim

We investigated the prevalence of risk factors for and the prevalence of prior abuse in abusive head trauma victims in the Netherlands.

Methods

We performed a retrospective file review of all abusive head trauma cases in the Netherlands in which forensic medical expertise was requested by the courts, between 2005 and 2010. Outcome measures were risk factors and indicators for prior abuse.

Results

Eighty-nine cases were included; 62% boys, median age 3.5 months. Impact trauma was found in 48% of cases, with a male perpetrator in 79%. Prematurity, dysmaturity and twins/triplets were found in 27%, 23% and 10% of cases, respectively, maternal age under 20 years in 17%. Of the parents, 60% had completed only primary or secondary education, 38% of the families were known to child welfare authorities. There was evidence for prior abuse in 81% of the cases.

Conclusion

The high number of families with prior abuse indicates that both the healthcare system and child welfare authorities failed to protect some of the children that have been in their care. Our results highlight the importance of training healthcare and child welfare professionals in recognizing physical abuse, as well as the importance of optimizing abusive head trauma prevention strategies.

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