Author(s):Susan Linn and Alvin Francis Poussaint
Source:Newsweek. 129 (Spring-Summer 1997): p33.
Full Text:Newsweek, Inc. All rights reserved. Any reuse, distribution or alteration without express written permission of Newsweek is prohibited. For permission: www.newsweek.com Full Text:
Shaken-baby syndrome can cause blindness, developmental delays and permanent brain damage EACH YEAR, THOUSANDS OF YOUNG CHILDREN suffer brain injury or die from being violently shaken. Children as old as 5 are vulnerable to shaken-baby syndrome (SBS), but infants between 2 and 4 months are especially at risk. Although inflicting SBS is a crime punishable by imprisonment, rates continue to rise. Since 1980 annual reported incidents of child abuse andneglect have risen threefold, to more than 8 million. Children under 1 account for one third of reported physical-abusecases, with head trauma the most frequent cause of disability or death. Clearly, the threat of criminal prosecution is not enough: any plan to prevent this kind of abuse must include public-education and intervention programs. SBS, first described as a syndrome in 1974, can be lethal: approximately one shaken baby in four dies from the injuries. Those who survive may suffer blindness caused by bleeding around the brain and eyes, or disabling brain damage, including mental retardation, paralysis, seizure disorders, and speech and learning disabilities. SBS is especially tragic because it often stems from ignorance. According to a nationwide study by Dr. Jacy Showers of the SBS Prevention Plus Program, 87 percent of parents and other caregivers are unaware that shaking babies is dangerous. Many people who injure babies in this fashion are not chronic abusers but adults overwhelmed by the demands of child care. It is no easy task to care for an infant. Newborns cry an average of one to four hours a day. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of SBS incidents occur...