Emergency Department Admissions for Physical Child Abuse: Evidence from the 2006-2017 Nationwide Emergency Department Sample

Jason T. Carbone, Kristen P. Kremer, Katherine J. Holzer, Jamie S. Kondis, Michael G. Vaughn

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2 Scopus citations


Physical child abuse continues to be a serious public health issue in the United States. This study expands on previous research by exploring trends in physical child abuse diagnoses among children admitted to emergency departments (EDs) across the United States. The analysis aimed to explicate the association between physical child abuse and both sociodemographic and behavioral health covariates to better inform and identify risk factors associated with ED admissions for abuse. The study also explicated differences between confirmed and suspected physical child abuse cases. The study utilized a nationally representative sample of hospital-owned EDs that included 319,676,625 ED admissions between 2006 and 2017 for children under 18-years-old. The analysis included a trend analysis, bivariate descriptive statistics, and multivariate logistic regression models were employed. Children with a physical child abuse diagnosis were less likely to be from higher income communities (aOR = 0.61, 95% CI [0.53, 0.71]), less likely to be female (aOR = 0.93, 95% CI [0.90, 0.96]), and more likely to be uninsured (aOR = 1.65, 95% CI [1.48, 1.84]). Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (aOR = 1.36, 95% CI [1.14, 1.62]) and a conduct disorder (aOR = 1.28, 95% CI [1.04, 1.58]) were more likely to have a physical abuse diagnosis. The sex-stratified analyses found that the higher rates of physical abuse among children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder were driven by the male subsample, while higher rates of abuse for those with conduct disorders were the result of the female subsample. A supplemental analysis of suspected versus confirmed physical child abuse for the fourth quarter of 2015 through 2017 also revealed sociodemographic and behavioral health differences. This study supports the need to consider sociodemographic and behavioral risk factors associated with physical child abuse to inform treatment and potential reoccurrence of abuse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)NP12768-NP12793
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number15-16
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • behavioral health
  • child abuse
  • child health
  • child maltreatment
  • epidemiological methods
  • psychosocial factors
  • social factors


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