Family violence-related injuries involving drugs, weapons increased during pandemic – Healio

October 09, 2021

2 min read

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.

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Researchers at the AAP National Conference & Exhibition reported an increase in family violence-related injuries that involved alcohol, drugs, or weapons among adolescents who presented to a pediatric ED in Baltimore during the pandemic.

Leticia M. Ryan, MD, MPH, associate professor of pediatrics and director of research in the division of pediatric emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and presenting author Mattea E. Miller, a medical student at the school, said in a joint interview with Healio that there is an abundance of studies on peer violence among adolescents, but fewer on family violence and adolescents.

A Johns Hopkins study found that adolescent injuries due to family violence increased during the pandemic. Source: Adobe Stock

“We wanted to have a better understanding of what other types of circumstances may result in violence-related injuries in early adolescence,” Ryan said. “In this particular study, we focused on young folks 10 to 15 years of age. That was our main interest, with the hope that by getting that information, we would have more complete information about one of the causes of violence-related injuries in early adolescence, and if that would inform the development of a more comprehensive prevention strategy.”

The researchers retrospectively reviewed electronic medical records and charts to identify children aged 10 to 15 years who visited the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center pediatric ED from January 2019 to December 2020 and divided the data into pre-pandemic and pandemic periods.

“We reviewed all of these charts and identified those visits for these young adolescents who were sent in for evaluation of an injury due to a violent event that involved a family member,” Miller explained.

The search turned up 819 children who visited the ED for injuries related to violence, including 448 (54.7%) who reported that the event involved a family member. The proportion of events involving a family member was similar during the pre-pandemic (54.6%) and pandemic (54.9%) periods.

From there, Ryan said, they focused on understanding the circumstances for those visits. What they found was that the vast majority of cases (76.6%) involved a parent or guardian and occurred at home (83.9%). They also found that a majority of patients were female (54.0%), Black/African American (84.4%), enrolled in a public insurance plan (71.2%), and were transported to the hospital by police (66.7%).

The proportion of visits that involved alcohol, illegal drugs, or weapons — most commonly a knife — significantly increased from 10.0%, 6.5%, and 10.7% during the pre-pandemic period to 18.8%, 14.9% and 23.8% during the pandemic.

“As we start a transition to post pandemic life, it will be really key to identify at-risk adolescents and families and provide support,” Ryan said. “The emergency department may be a very appropriate setting to intervene with children and adolescents who have experienced family violence and initiate those preventive strategies to avoid future violence.”

Reference:

Injuries due to family violence involving alcohol, drugs or weapons increased during pandemic stay-at-home months. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/930182. Published Oct. 8, 2021. Accessed Oct. 8, 2021.

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