Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Incidents of Child Abuse Climb as the Great Recession Deepens

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about the increase in abuse and invective directed towards disabled people as the Great Recession grinds on. So what could possibly be as revolting as that? Why, an increase in the physical abuse of children, of course. Here is Reuters with the gruesome details:
As the U.S. economy began to tank, the number of abused kids landing in the hospital with severe brain injuries spiked, a new study shows.

Anecdotes linking child abuse to the recession have surfaced before, but there had been no hard data to back the connection until now.

"It's definitely disturbing," said Elizabeth Gershoff, a psychologist who studies parenting, but was not involved in the study.
Yuck. So just how bad is it? The article continues:
From 2004 to 2009, there were 422 children diagnosed with what doctors call "abusive head trauma." The majority ended up in the intensive care unit, and 16 percent died of their injuries.

The children's average age was nine months.

In the three years leading up to the crash in December 2007, the rate of abusive head injuries was 8.9 per year per 100,000 kids. After the crash, the number jumped to 14.7 per 100,000.

"If what we are seeing is even close to generalizable, that is a lot of excess children," said Dr. Rachel P. Berger, a child abuse expert at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh who co-authored the study.

She said she noticed a sharp uptick in the number of children who came to her hospital with banged-up heads in 2008. From 17 cases per year, it suddenly jumped to 37 in 2008, and 11 of those kids died -- more than had been killed after accidental head traumas.

"At any given time there was virtually always a baby in our ICU," Berger told Reuters Health.
Let’s have a time out for just a moment as I call attention to Rachel Berger’s unfortunate use of the term “excess children” in that article. Given what’s going on in the economy, you should be a bit more careful with your choice of terminology, there Rachel.

Anyway, this article plus the one I posted yesterday dramatically illustrate that our society is slowly coming apart at the seams. If this were just the normal cyclical recession, you might be tempted to shrug off this story and say things will get better once the economy improves. But as I’ve demonstrated over and over again on this blog, the economy for most people is NOT going to improve. In fact, it is likely as good as it’s ever going to get right now as I write these words.

Millions of people are growing increasingly desperate as the light at the end of the tunnel increasingly appears to be that of an onrushing freight train. So far, they have suffered in quiet desperation, without taking to the streets in any form of mass protest—which is exactly how they have been conditioned to react by our mainstream media.

Unemployed, but no one will hire you? Defaulting on your mortgage and losing your house? Sick but can’t afford to go to the doctor? Straddled with unpayable student loan debt? Credit card balances driving you into bankruptcy? Sorry, loser, but it’s your own damn fault. Suck it up and stop whining. Just because we conditioned you to engage in the reckless financial behavior that led you to this point does not absolve you of your “personal responsibility.”

Imagine hearing that message over and over again, pounded into your skull while the bill collector won’t stop calling, the roof is leaking but you can’t afford to have it fixed and the baby lies in the next room, screaming in her crib. For far too many folks and their unfortunate children, the American Dream has turning into a waking nightmare.


  1. I suspect you can find similar trends in abused wives and abused/neglected/abandoned animals.

  2. The best thing that can happen for most of us is to grasp our worsening economic predicament and the undoing of society, and make lifestyle changes to accomodate these changes.

    Most of this work is in our minds.

    Life can go on quite happily in very different ways than it has in the last 50 years.

    We just need to realize this, and get into the space that will enable us to carry on happily.

  3. @John Andersen ... While I agree with the basic spirit of your post, I think it's misleading. Most of the work is NOT in our minds. Our minds are attached to our bodies and those bodies need food, shelter, etc. These things cost money, which means the bodies need jobs. The simple reality is that most people simply do not have the resources or skills required to just walk away from their lives in an attempt to make them more sustainable or whatever.

    First, most people in our extremely complex and specialized world have income-earning skills in maybe one or two areas (often related, almost always dependent on cheap available energy). Their current job uses these skills and pays them for it. They use that money to live. If they are like most Americans, there is little, if anything, left over to save. So, they are essentially trapped in the current job/career/industry.

    If they could go somewhere, where would they go? Not everybody can go out into rural areas and farm (even if they had the skills, which they certainly do not). Ignoring that, they would almost certainly need to sell their suburban McMansion in order to change their lives (to buy farm land, to pay moving expenses, or put down payment on residential or commercial property, etc.). Of course, if everybody bails on the suburbs (something that is probably likely over the long term), then those property values plummet and even those who manage to sell won't get much.

    Most people are in a situation that is similar to that described above. Many are in much worse situations (fewer skills, high debt, medical needs, etc.). Even if people are totally on board with the idea that we have major problems, and with the general idea of the kind of future we are likely to have, moving from here to there represents a logistical, real, physical problem that for most people will be incredibly daunting.

    So, while I agree, we need a change in attitude that allows people to recognize our real situation, I don't think the work is mostly in our heads. Changing minds is nothing more than the first step. Necessary, but it just gets you one step closer to the next big problem in a very long line of very big problems.

  4. As an aside, Dan Carlin recently had an interesting podcast on the history of child abuse in which a tough look at the subject matter was taken:


    The children that will suffer the most will be the earliest interventions that put them into the system before it crumbles around them.

  5. I believe in the resilience of human beings. That is why a total awareness of our macro predicament by small communities can lead to survival and some sustainability.

    There are plenty of people outside of the McMansion world, i.e. many Hispanic immigrants who already have lots of skills beyond the work and spend trap.

    Too often I think we overlook such people who've long been in our midst, and who've long demonstrated no interest in the American Dream TM.

    Right now I'm reading "Lakota Woman." It is an example of human survival beyond the work and spend paradigm.

    Young people who truly get it, will acquire many skills that will enhance their chances. I agree that older, white, corporate people in McMansions may indeed be trapped.

    I'm thinking though of the majority of people in our society who don't fit that description.

    I'm thinking of people who are scrappy, clever, and poor. They've got the right mindset, and they've got the right skills.

  6. @John Anderson - I partly agree with you. There are a lot of people with the proper skills/mindset to survive what's coming. I just do not believe they are anywhere close to being a majority. If they were, they could VOTE to change course before we hit the wall at full speed, as we seem so determined to do.

  7. I'm speaking of the disempowered of the world, and those who are too disillusioned to vote, or even engage in the political process, i.e. many women, minorities, citizens of 3rd World, etc.

    I work with 20-somethings and I'm very impressed with their scrappy approach to life. They never cease to amaze me.

    Frankly, I like their chances much better than mine.

    Perhaps such people are not the majority, but they are a much larger part of society than we may recognize.

    Speaking for myself: broadening my friendship and associate circle has given me a more positive view of what can be salvaged even in systemic collapse.

  8. I agree with John most of the problem “is in our minds”, our single biggest problem is the refusal of most people to accept the reality of our situation. Denial is the greatest enemy we face. This is compounded by the lunatic media and political classes, who are becoming more unhinged by the day.

    Things are bleak but if we faced the reality of this bleakness and began to invest our capital in rational ways today there is still a lot could be done to mitigate the oncoming disaster, even at this late stage. However I also agree with Bill most people seem intent on hitting the wall at full speed.

    There are many Eastern European immigrants in Ireland, these people lived through the collapse of the Communism and they are incredibly resourceful people always looking out for any usable resources. They will survive. As John says there are young people who get it and are learning useful skills, they will survive. Like John I am amazed when talking to them how clued in and smart they are. I take much encouragement from the way the Cuban people have survived peak oil.

    Will human civilisation survive the oncoming disaster, I don’t know, but we are an incredibly adapatable species and the future is still to be written.