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Study: Housing Woes Connected to Child Abuse

PHOTO: Bank owned sign. Photo credit: Deborah Smith
PHOTO: Bank owned sign. Photo credit: Deborah Smith
August 7, 2012

BALTIMORE - Family housing problems appear to open the door to child abuse, according to a new study based on data from children's hospitals and the real estate market. Housing stress is persistent in Maryland, with some counties, such as Prince George's and Charles, seeing foreclosure rates higher than the national average. The new research found that each 1 percent increase in mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures was associated with a 3 percent increase in abuse-related hospital admissions.

Ben Tanzer, communications director for Prevent Child Abuse America, says this is a first-of-its-kind study.

"Most important is that someone has made a connection between things like housing insecurity and other recession-era challenges that in fact raise stress on parents."

In addition, the study found a 5 percent increase in traumatic brain injuries connected to abuse for each 1 percent climb in mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures.

Tanzer says this information validates anecdotal reports of more child abuse since the onset of the recession, and underscores the need for safety nets on the emotional and financial levels.

"Treating, nurturing things like resilience and the ability to manage stress are incredibly important, but they need to be balanced by having the support systems in place."

The study, "Trends in Child Physical Abuse and The Relationship with Housing Insecurity," was published by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's Research Institute. A summary is at bit.ly/O1u202.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD