Researchers with Johns Hopkins Children’s Center found that more than half of all violence-related injuries in youth treated in the emergency department (ED) were due to family violence, including child maltreatment and physical fighting. Most events involved parents or guardians. The researchers also found the majority of family violence-related injury happened at home, and the proportion occurring at home significantly increased during the pandemic.
The researchers compared family violence-related ED visits at the Children’s Center before the pandemic (Jan. 1, 2019-March 29, 2020) with visits during the pandemic (March 30, 2020-Dec. 31, 2020). Of 819 youth between 10 and 15 years old seen in the ED for violence-related injuries, more than half of the incidences (54.7%) involved a family member – most often a parent or guardian.
The most likely location for an injury was the adolescent’s home. However, such injuries were about 10% more likely to occur there during the pandemic (92.1%) than before the pandemic (81.6%). The researchers found the use of alcohol, illegal drugs and weapons by either the patient or the other party leading to violence-associated injury increased during the pandemic compared with the period before it.
“We know that exposure to family violence increases a child or teen’s risk for perpetrating violence in their own future relationships,” says Leticia Ryan, M.D., M.P.H., chief of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center’s pediatric emergency medicine division. “The emergency department plays an important role by identifying at-risk youth, initiating preventive interventions and stopping the negative cycle.”
The findings from this study will be presented during the Council on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention program from 3-5 p.m. CDT on Oct. 10, 2021, at the American Academy of Pediatrics 2021 National Conference and Exhibition in Philadelphia.