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Child Abuse Death Risk High in Military Families

Homicide rates doubled near army bases, study found

TUESDAY, May 17, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Children from military families are twice as likely to die from severe abuse as other children are, according to a North Carolina study.

Based on the findings, the pediatric experts who led the study are calling on officials at the Pentagon to do more to investigate the reasons children growing up in military households face such risks.

The study was presented Tuesday at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting, in Washington, D.C.

Researchers at the North Carolina Child Advocacy Institute examined cases of child abuse murders in North Carolina from 1985 to 2000. They focused on cases involving babies and children up to 10 years old.

They report that four military installations are in the two counties with the highest rates of child abuse murders.

Overall, North Carolina had 378 abuse murders of children in this age group, for a annual rate of 2.2 deaths per 100,000 children. In Cumberland County -- home to Fort Bragg and Pope Air Force Base -- the abuse murder rate for children of military families was five deaths per 100,000 children, more than double the state average. The rate for children from non-military families living in Cumberland County was also higher than the state average.

In Onslow County -- home to Camp LeJeune/New River Air Station -- the annual abuse murder rate for children of military families was 4.9 per 100,000. The rate for non-military children in Onslow County was also higher than the state average.

"In this study, the long-term patterns of child abuse homicides are not coincidence," Marcia Herman-Geddens, senior fellow at the North Carolina Child Advocacy Institute and an adjunct professor at the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina, said in a prepared statement.

"They suggest problems in and around North Carolina military families and military communities that predictably result in a consistently higher number and rate of child abuse homicides than in non-military communities."

And she said that "although military bases have many laudable programs and interventions to reduce child abuse and other family violence, strategies with sufficient effectiveness may be lacking, missing, inadequate and/or undermined by other influences on military and civilian families."

More action is required at the local, state and national levels to deal with this problem, Herman-Geddens said. The study recommends that the U.S. Department of Defense begin a data collection system for all child and adult cases of family violence, and that this information be made public so it can be used for prevention research.

The study also recommended that current prevention, treatment and support services available to military families be examined for effectiveness, and expanded with a coordinated response to family violence to reduce child and spouse abuse.

More information

The American Medical Association has more about child abuse.

SOURCE: Pediatric Academic Societies, news release, May 17, 2005
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