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Child Abuse or Accident? Bringing Science to Pediatric Emergency Departments and Forensic Investigations

NCJ Number
255644
Date Published
February 2021
Length
25 pages
Agencies
NIJ
Publication Series
Annotation

This NIJ Journal article outlines a series of NIJ-sponsored research projects characterizing pediatric injuries, modeling injury risk, and building an evidence base to help determine the likelihood of abuse as the cause of injuries in children.

Abstract

When children are brought into emergency departments, it can be difficult for doctors and nurses to determine whether injuries are the result of accidents or abuse. Though accidental falls and other injuries are common, child abuse is the leading cause of trauma-related deaths in children. This NIJ Journal article outlines a series of NIJ-sponsored research projects characterizing pediatric injuries, modeling injury risk, and building an evidence base to help determine the likelihood of abuse as the cause of injuries in children. The article profiles the decades-long collaboration between pediatrician Mary Clyde Pierce and bioengineer Gina Bertocci, who together founded the Injury Risk Assessment and Prevention Laboratory at the University of Louisville. The two scientists are currently working on a probability model to predict head injuries in falls. Their lab has also produced a model of potential bruising patterns in children, since bruises can be crucial signs of abuse. The lab’s research underscores the capacity for multidisciplinary collaborations to answer questions that individual specialists — in this case, physicians and engineers — could not answer on their own.

Date Created: February 8, 2021