MONDAY, Dec. 17, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Sending report cards home from school on Fridays is linked to a surge in child abuse, a new study finds.
"It's a pretty astonishing finding," said lead study author Melissa Bright, a research scientist with the University of Florida's Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies.
"It's sad, but the good news is there's a simple intervention -- don't give report cards on Friday," she added in a university new release.
For the study, Bright's team compared a year's worth of child abuse cases verified by the Florida Department of Children and Families with the dates that elementary school report cards were sent home.
Child abuse cases were four times higher on Saturdays following Fridays when report cards were issued than on other Saturdays, the findings showed.
There was no spike in child abuse cases when report cards were issued earlier in the week, the researchers said.
Bright said she'd heard from Dr. Randell Alexander, chief of the division of child protection and forensic pediatrics at the university's College of Medicine in Jacksonville, that child abuse soared after report cards were sent home.
But Bright couldn't find any studies to confirm what many doctors said they had observed. So she and Alexander decided to form a team of researchers and conduct their own study.
Bright plans to continue the research by examining data from other states and also wants to identify the factors behind the apparent association between report cards and child abuse.
While it might be due to children being punished for poor grades, "it might be something else we don't know about," Bright said.
In addition to issuing report cards earlier in the week, schools should consider educating the public about when corporal punishment crosses the line into abuse, the study authors suggested.
But such efforts may be complicated by the fact that some counties in Florida still allow corporal punishment in schools, as do 19 states, according to the Gundersen Center for Effective Discipline.
The report was published Dec. 17 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
The U.S. Children's Bureau has more on child abuse and neglect.