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Child Abuse Negl. 2007 Sep;31(9):993-9. Epub 2007 Sep 17.

Inflicted skeletal trauma: the relationship of perpetrators to their victims.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Eastern Virginia Medical School and Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters, Norfolk, VA 23507, USA.



Although inflicted skeletal trauma is a very common presentation of child abuse, little is known about the perpetrators of inflicted skeletal injuries. Studies exist describing perpetrators of inflicted traumatic brain injury, but no study has examined characteristics of perpetrators of inflicted skeletal trauma.


All cases of suspected child physical abuse evaluated by the child abuse evaluation teams at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (January 1996 to August 2000) and at the Children's Hospital at Denver (January 1996 to December 1999) were reviewed for the presence of fractures. All children with inflicted fractures were entered into the study, and demographic data, investigative data, and identity of perpetrators were collected.


There were a total of 630 fractures for 194 patients. The median number of fractures per patient was 2, and the maximum was 31. Sixty-three percent of children presented with at least one additional abusive injury other than the fracture(s). Perpetrators were identified in 79% of the cases. Nearly 68% of the perpetrators were male; 45% were the biological fathers. The median age of the children abused by males (4.5 months) significantly differed from the median age of those abused by females (10 months) (p=.003).


In the cases where a perpetrator of inflicted fractures could be identified, the majority were men, most commonly the biological fathers. Children injured by men were younger than those injured by women.

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