Researchers report an uptick in family violence amid Covid-19.
The pandemic has brought with it longer term physical, mental and emotional health issues, including upticks in domestic violence, suicides, depression and anxiety, in addition to life-threatening and fatal cases of the virus, and other issues that will continue to impact society even if the coronavirus is effectively eradicated.
The number of adolescents treated for injuries caused by family violence, including issues involving illegal drugs or weapons, has more than doubled since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics 2021 National Conference that took place on October 10. Moreover, the agency indicated Incidents involving alcohol nearly doubled.
“The COVID-19 pandemic amplified risk factors known to increase family interpersonal violence, such as increased need for parental supervision, parental stress, financial hardship, poor mental health, and isolation,” said investigator Mattea Miller of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.
“To examine the issue,” she said she and her colleagues “sought to characterize the prevalence and circumstances of adolescent injuries resulting from family interpersonal violence.”
Their retrospective analysis involved children, ages 10 to 15, who were treated before or during the pandemic in the emergency department (ED) at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center for wounds that resulted from a violent confrontation with a family member. Of the 819 incidents of violence-related injuries, in total, during this time period, the pre-pandemic analysis “from January 1, 2019, to March 29, 2020,’ and the pandemic period ‘from March 30, 2020 (the time of the first stay-at-home order in Maryland, to December 31, 2020, ‘448 (54.7%) involved a family member. The proportion of such injuries was similar before and during the pandemic (54.6% vs 54.9%; P = .99),” the team found. “Most (83.9%) of these incidents occurred at home, 76.6% involved a parent or guardian, and 66.7% involved the youth being transported to the hospital by police.”
The stress and uncertainty of the ‘new normal’ has been primarily to blame in increase incidents of violence. Those who already have issues with anger management and are prone to violence can react especially irrationally. However, the physical confrontations are not exclusive to a pre-existing propensity towards violence, or at least a known issue with previous acts of violence.
“It is surprising that families accounted for such a high level of violence involving adolescents,” said Christopher S. Greeley, MD, MS, chief of the division of public health pediatrics at Texas Children’s Hospital and professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. Greeley was not involved in the study. He added, “The most common source of child physical abuse in younger children – infants and toddlers – are parents, who account for about 75% of cases, but to see that amount of violence in adolescents was unexpected.”
The team concluded that, “Patients in the study were more likely to be Black than the hospital’s overall emergency-department population (84.4% vs 60.0%), and more likely to be covered by public insurance (71.2% vs 60.0%),” suggesting that lower-income may be more impacted by high rates of violence. The analysis could inform, proactively, programs to limit family violence in the future as well as those designed to address current trends.