INTRODUCTION AND EPIDEMIOLOGY
Child maltreatment is, unfortunately, a common global problem. In the United States, over 675,000 children suffer some form of child abuse or neglect each year, and approximately 12% of these children will present to a hospital with injuries.1 It is estimated that between 2% and 10% of children visiting the ED are victims of child abuse or neglect.2 According to the World Health Organization, 36.3% of children experience emotional abuse, 16.3% experience physical neglect, and 22.6% of adults report suffering physical abuse as a child.3 The lifetime prevalence of childhood sexual abuse ranges from 8% to 31% for girls and 3% to 17% for boys.4 Therefore, emergency providers are in a unique position to identify nonaccidental injuries and potentially prevent further abuse. Child maltreatment takes many forms, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and caregiver-fabricated illness (previously called Munchausen syndrome by proxy).
Child neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment and the most difficult to evaluate and manage; it contributes to as many as 50% of fatalities from child maltreatment.5 Neglect occurs when a caregiver fails to meet a child’s basic needs in provision of food, shelter, clothing, health care, education, supervision, and nurturance.5-7 Further, this failure either results or is very likely to result in serious impairment of a child’s health or development. While many types of neglect may occur, seldom does any one form exist on its own. Carefully consider each neglect risk factor individually, identifying whether there is overt historical or physical evidence of each subtype of neglect (Table 150-1).
TABLE 150-1Types of Neglect ||Download (.pdf) TABLE 150-1 Types of Neglect
|Types of Neglect ||Description |
|Physical ||Failure to provide the basic physical necessities of food, shelter, and adequate clothing. |
|Emotional ||Failure to provide necessary nurturing, affection, and stimulation. |
|Educational ||Failure to provide an educational program; this may include chronic truancy. |
|Medical/dental ||Failure to provide basic medical and dental care, which results, or has the potential to result, in harm; this may include noncompliance with healthcare recommendations. |
|Supervisory ||Failure to adequately supervise and ensure safety of a child, given the child’s developmental needs. |
Given that neglect is rarely a single act, but is rather an accumulation of harm over time, the often brief, single encounter of an ED assessment cannot provide the comprehensive assessment required. The goals of the ED encounter are to recognize when child neglect may be at issue, to clearly document the presenting concerns, and to trigger the appropriate multidisciplinary team approach for the investigation and management of these complex cases. The recognition of child neglect in the ED requires knowledge of the multiple risk factors associated with neglect (Table 150-2).6-9 Poverty, parental substance abuse, and mental health issues are three of the most common risk ...