Note that the Australian pediatrician in this article reiterates what every study of shaken baby syndrome has reported: THE VAST MAJORITY OF PERPETRATORS ARE DADS AND BOYFRIENDS.
Shaken baby injuries 'go undetected'
September 18, 2009
ABOUT 25 young children with ''shaken baby syndrome'' have been admitted to the Children's Hospital at Westmead in the past eight years, but doctors say the actual number of children who suffer a devastating brain injury at the hands of a parent or carer is probably much higher, and is increasing.
International studies show that one in three cases of abusive brain injury go undetected for days, or are never identified by hospital staff, because the symptoms - such as lethargy, seizures and breathing problems - mimic a range of possible conditions.
The head of the hospital's child protection unit, the pediatrician Susan Marks, said almost all inflicted traumatic brain injury was carried out by the child's father or the mother's boyfriend.
If a child came from a seemingly stable home, health workers were more likely to dismiss child abuse as being behind the symptoms, she said.
''There are a number of social risk factors, but the fact is we don't seem to suspect this problem if we have a child whose parents are caucasian and are still married to each other,'' Dr Marks told a symposium of health and child protection workers yesterday.
Of cases that are misdiagnosed, a quarter will go on to be severely injured again, and one in 10 will die as a result.
Inflicted traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of infant death from injury. Of those who survive, up to two in three will grow up with profound physical, behavioural and emotional disabilities.
There are almost 400 patients at Westmead's brain injury service who sustained devastating damage to their brains as infants or young children.
Rebecca*, now 17, was a week shy of her second birthday when she was violently shaken by her mother's then partner. The trauma caused her brain to swell and she was paralysed down one side of her body.
She had to learn to walk and talk again and her memory and ability to read and write was severely affected.
Her mother, Simone, said she and her former partner, who is not Rebecca's father, were both young and inexperienced and his frustration with an inconsolable baby may have played a part. ''I never thought about the dangers of shaking a baby or that the brain could swell up, it just never occurred to me,'' she said.
''In the hospital I felt discriminated against by the nurses because it was a child abuse case, even though I wasn't the perpetrator. I could tell they were thinking, 'Why didn't the mother know, why didn't she stop it?'''
Nine years of intense rehabilitation allowed Rebecca to attend a mainstream school, with the aid of a carer, and she hopes to work in child care when she finishes school at the end of this year.
But Rebecca is one of the more fortunate ones - of the 65 cases reviewed at the children's hospital, four died, seven remained in a vegetative state and 17 were severely disabled.
*Name has been changed.
Source: The Sydney Morning Herald