New study shows a sad connection between report cards and child abuse

Today 2 of my sons received their report cards while one is still waiting. He’s a bit nervous, but luckily not afraid of how we will react. A new American study shows that this often a different case, reporting based on an analysis that included 1,943 cases of verified child physical abuse, calls into a child abuse hotline that resulted in verified cases came in at a higher rate on Saturdays when report cards were released on Fridays…

The study in short:

his study used a complex method to analyze report card release dates and cases of child physical abuse called into a hotline and verified by Florida’s child welfare agency for elementary school children during an academic year. In an analysis that included 1,943 cases of verified child physical abuse, calls that resulted in verified cases came in at a higher rate on Saturdays when report cards were released on Fridays. Possible reasons to explain why are speculative and require further study. The study is limited by its focus only on public school data and data only on physical abuse that resulted in calls to a state hotline.

Abstract of the study:

Importance  Corporal punishment is a leading risk factor for physical abuse. Strong anecdotal evidence from physicians and other professionals working in child protection suggest that punishment-initiated physical abuse for school-aged children increases after release of report cards. However, no empirical examination of this association has occurred.

Objective  To examine the temporal association between school report card release and incidence rates (IRs) of physical abuse.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This retrospective study reviewed calls to a state child abuse hotline and school report card release dates across a single academic year in Florida. Data were collected in a 265-day window from September 8, 2015, to May 30, 2016, in the 64 of 67 Florida counties with report card release dates available (16 960 days). Participants included all children aged 5 to 11 years for whom calls were made. A total of 1943 verified cases of physical abuse were reported in the study period in the 64 counties. Data were analyzed from October 2017 through May 2018.

Exposures  School report cards release across a single academic year, measured daily by county.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Daily counts of calls to a child abuse hotline that later resulted in agency-verified incidents of child physical abuse across a single academic year by county.

Results  During the academic year, 167 906 calls came in to the child abuse hotline for children aged 5 to 11 years; 17.8% (n = 29 887) of these calls were suspected incidents of physical abuse, and 2017 (6.7%) of these suspected incidents were later verified as cases of physical abuse before excluding the 3 counties with no release dates available. Among the 1943 cases included in the analysis (58.9% males [n = 1145]; mean [SD] age, 7.69 [1.92] years), calls resulting in verified reports of child physical abuse occurred at a higher rate on Saturdays after a Friday report card release compared with Saturdays that do not follow a Friday report card release (IR ratio, 3.75; 95% CI, 1.21-11.63; P = .02). No significant association of report card release with IRs was found for any other days of the week.

Conclusion and Relevance  This association of school report card release and physical abuse appears to illustrate a unique systems-based opportunity for prevention.

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Filed under At home, Education, Research

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