The study marks the first time researchers looked at rates of non-fatal
maltreatment in infants under 1 year of age. It also reveals that a high
proportion of the maltreatment in infants occurred during the first week of
life. Maltreatment includes physical abuse, neglect or deprivation of
necessities, medical neglect, sexual abuse, and psychological or emotional
"We certainly were distressed," says Ileana Arias, PhD, director of
the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC. "What the
data suggest is that maltreatment is taking place earlier than we had been
Researchers say they don't yet have data to indicate whether neglect and
abuse in very young infants is getting better or worse.
"This is the first opportunity we've had to look within that age
group," says Rebecca Leeb, PhD, the lead researcher of the study.
The study appears in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly
Risks of Child Neglect
Neglect accounted for about 70% of the total reported cases in infants 1
week old or less, researchers say, while physical and sexual abuse accounted
The researchers say they were struck by findings that for infants who were
maltreated in the first month of life, the vast majority occurred within three
days of birth. Arias calls it a "clear pattern" of early abuse that
could be preventable.
Early neglect and abuse raises the likelihood of a child's risky behavior in
adolescence and in turn could influence drug and alcohol use later in life,
says Joan E. Ohl, commissioner for children, youth and families in the
Administration for Children and Families.
The report defined neglect as failure to meet basic needs, including
shelter, food, clothing, education, and medical care.
Researchers say they need more studies to find out how educational level,
income, and other factors affect maltreatment of infants. But they also call
for more attention in prenatal settings and in hospitals before new mothers
take their babies home.
"There isn't routine training of individuals of how to parent,"