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Violent Shaking can cause serious harm to a child !!

Crying may be the only way, a baby could express its feelings and needs. If the parents or caregivers couldn’t find the cause of the child’s inconsolable, instinctively parents would simply start shaking the child thinking that the child would stop the crying. 

What the parents do not realize is that the violent shake of the infant’s head causes brain damage and finally lead to the child to stop crying. 

Researchers call this the, ”shaken baby syndrome” and is still not well known among people and may also cause several injuries which in most cases may have no outward physical signs.  

 Shaking can severely harm the child’s brain !!

It was found that each year in the US alone, one thousand infants died after being shaken. Also, an equal number of cases result in brain damage. 

Worse, many individuals who are guilty of this type of form of abuse go free due to a lack of evidence, while others are wrongly suspected of a crime that they never intentionally committed. 

Researchers reveal that plenty of cases involving the concealed killing of infants do come every now and then. Also, it was extremely difficult to get a conviction in a court of law. 

How bad is the effect of shaking? 

Being shaken is extremely traumatic. As the head moves so much it could even result in the brain being destroyed. These kinds of injuries also occur during car accidents or when vehicles are put under hard breaking.

It has a name !!

The syndrome that occurred when a baby cried too much is called as the, “Be quiet now” syndrome. 

One in three infants can become injured and ultimately even die from the resulting injury. A third of the babies survive with serious complications such as physical paralysis, blindness and also serious mental handicaps.

Now while the last third seemed unharmed in the beginning, studies have shown that these children are over represented in the statistics for ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

What happens to the Brain?

Researchers have explained what may be happening in the child’s brain and body when they are being shaken in simple words -

  • A baby’s head is proportionately larger than the head of an adult. The muscles in the neck are still underdeveloped. When the child’s upper body is pulled, the head just follows after and somewhat has a pendulum-like movement.      
  •  The brain is floating in a brain fluid and the nerve fibers lead from the brain down to the spine. And with a motion consisting of a hard enough jerk, the brain can move around and the nerve fibers can detach or snap. Doctors call this phenomenon, a Diffuse Axonal Injury or DAI.     
  • When MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and CAT (computerized axial tomography) scans are taken of an abused baby’s brain, nerve damage appears as small white dots.    
  • It is also not rare for a shaken baby to have bruises around the temple and injuries on other parts of the body, which happens most likely when the baby is struck by something during the abuse. 

Parents often come up with self-explanations regarding the infant’s injuries. Parents might say things like, the baby had fallen from its bath or something like how the parent had accidentally dropped the baby down a few stairs.

Researchers pointed out that if someone were to believe the parent’s explanation for the injuries, it would be even more dangerous to fall from the baby bath than a fall from a height of three meters. Which is why not all of these explanations can be taken at face value.

Legal Difficulties !!

Researchers pointed out the problems that would come up later regarding the injury of the child in this manner.

  • From all the cases reported to and investigated by the police, only about a handful of cases are actually handled by the justice system.
  • This was more of a problematic and difficult task as there aren’t any measurements good enough to differentiate between injuries due to this form of abuse, accidents, and congenital defects.  
  • There aren’t any witnesses when an abuser injures an innocent child. Also, there wouldn’t be any evidence or video footage that can be used in court. 

The Experiment!!

To improve forensic evidence results, researchers brought in a technologically advanced doll to learn more about the connection between shaking and damage in the infant’s brain. 

The doll costing about 19000 $ was initially designed as a crash test dummy. Although it was already filled with the advanced instrumentation, researchers put in extra equipment so that the forensic researchers could measure the stress on the brain from shaking or from the head striking a hard surface or object.

And to investigate injuries caused by shaking and blunt force trauma, ten individuals were chosen to play the part of the aggressive parents. When the doll was shaken researchers tried to measure as to what could happen to a baby when the child was violently shaken. The researchers then compared those injuries with falls from various heights.

The Results  

Researchers knew for a fact that shaking caused a baby’s head to accelerate quickly. In the case of the doll, the doll’s head accelerated in three directions.

Under acceleration, the stress on an infant’s head can be compared equally to the worst level of stress experienced by the pilot of a fighter jet.

While shaking could equal ten times the force of gravity (10 G), a fighter pilot could only stand a force of 9 G for a short period of time before completely passing out. 

In an automobile collision at 70 kilometers per hour, the brain would be subjected to force of only a few G. 

The research was carried out by Arne Stray-Pedersen from the Institute of Forensic Medicine at the University of Oslo.

Shaking the child can also lead to long term effects !!

While the seriousness of the brain damage depends on the frequency, intensity, and duration of the shake, there may be also other minor injuries due to this syndrome, such as irritability, lethargy, convulsions, vomiting or even lack of appetite. Sometimes this could get even more serious where the injuries could involve eye injury or even broken bones.

The Father may be the main aggressor?

Studies have shown that most of the victims were children under the age of two years old and the  most  vulnerable victims included - 

  • premature babies, 
  • low-weight babies
  • babies with excessive colic
  • disabled babies
  • twins 
  • step-children

The study also the showed the following results -

  • Most of the time, the aggressors were men which included frequently the father (44%).
  • Sometimes it could be the single mother’s boyfriend living in the family home (20%).
  • Most frequent aggressors among women were the babysitters (18 %) and the mothers (7%).

The Conclusion!! 

According to the information collected from scientific studies published from the past five years, researchers have confirmed that in most of the cases, the cause was reported either as abuse or mistreatment. 

Due to this reason, early detection and appropriate prevention by health professionals were essential as the syndrome may cause serious long term effects on the infant.  Moreover, a poor evaluation could lead to serious consequences or even death of the victim. 

  •  20 % of the victims died during the days following the aggression.
  • 50 % of the infants who survive suffer from a wide variety of disabilities.
  • Only 30 % of the children recover completely.

The research was carried out by Concepcion Ruiz Rodriguez, lecturer of the Department of Nursing of the UGR.

Prevention !!

Researchers conclude that the importance of establishing prevention and early detection programs in which experts in early childhood healthcare are involved.

Researchers also said that it was necessary to offer educational courses for parents and health professionals where they can learn about the characteristics of this syndrome and certain strategies to deal with stressful situations.