Who's Watching the Children? Caregiver Features Associated with Physical Child Abuse versus Accidental Injury

Amanda K. Fingarson, Mary Clyde Pierce*, Douglas J. Lorenz, Kim Kaczor, Berkeley Bennett, Rachel Berger, Melissa Currie, S. Herr, Sheila Hickey, J. Magana, K. Makoroff, Marcia Williams, Audrey Young, Noel Zuckerbraun

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Objective: To compare caregiver features and caregiving arrangements of children with physical abuse vs accidental injuries. Study design: Data came from a prospective, observational, multicenter study investigating bruising and psychosocial characteristics of children younger than 4 years of age. Using logistic regression, we examined how abuse vs accidental injury and severity of injury were associated with caregiver sex, relation to the child, whether caregiving arrangements were different than usual at the time of injury, and length of the main caregiver's relationship with his/her partner. Results: Of 1615 patients, 24% were determined to have been physically abused. Abuse was more likely when a male caregiver was present (OR 3.31, 95% CI 2.38-4.62). When the male was the boyfriend of the mother (or another female caregiver), the odds of abuse were very high (OR 169.2, 95% CI 61.3-614.0). Severe or fatal injuries also were more likely when a male caregiver was present. In contrast, abuse was substantially less likely when a female caregiver was present (OR 0.25, 95% CI 0.17-0.37) with the exception of a female babysitter (OR 3.87, 95% CI 2.15-7.01). Caregiving arrangements that were different than usual and caregiver relationships <1 year were also associated with an increased risk of abuse. Conclusions: We identified caregiver features associated with physical abuse. In clinical practice, questions regarding caregiver features may improve recognition of the abused child. This information may also inform future abuse prevention strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)180-187.e1
JournalJournal of Pediatrics
StatePublished - Sep 2019


  • accidents
  • caregiver
  • child care
  • parent
  • physical abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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