A disturbing trend: Child abuse rises in recession, a new study from Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington shows. From 2004 to 2007, 8.9 out of 100,000 children under five ended up in the hospital each year with severe brain injuries. From the December 2007 crash to 2009, that number leaped to 14.7 per 100,000, Reuters reports. "If what we are seeing is even close to generalizable, that is a lot of excess children," says one study co-author. Though child abuse had been anecdotally linked to the recession in the past, this is the first hard data showing a connection.
The study does not prove that the recession itself caused the increase, but other studies have linked parental stress to abuse. "Living in poverty for parents can be very stressful," says a psychologist. "And that in turn leads to harsher parenting." The average age of the hospitalized children in the study was nine months, leading the co-author to theorize crying may have led to “shaken baby syndrome” in many of the cases. She also says that one possible cause for the uptick in abuse is that mothers, finding themselves with fewer resources, may be increasingly forced to leave their children with fathers or other male caretakers— "the number one perpetrators" —who don’t typically care for them. (Read more child abuse stories.)