Shaken baby syndrome, or SBS, is the leading cause of infant brain injury and infant abuse death in the country. SBS is a form of inflicted head trauma, the direct result of vigorous shaking, dropping a child to the floor or actions that result in an infant’s head striking a hard surface. Because an infant’s head and cranial areas are very underdeveloped until the child is about four years of age, damage to the upper spinal cord near the base of the brain, excessive swelling in the cranium and severely damaged neck muscles are common when unnecessary force is applied to these areas.
Statistics on Shaken Baby Syndrome
Most often this type of injury occurs in infants between three and eight months of age. The person inflicting the trauma is usually a family member, the husband or boyfriend of the child’s mother, or a babysitter. Gathered statistics clearly show that the most likely reason a person abuses an infant or toddler in this fashion is because the child is crying or seems to be uncooperative, causing frustration for the adult or teen who is in charge of caring for the youngster.
Approximately 60% of all children abused in this manner are male, and more than 66% of all perpetrators of this action are also male. Over 500,000 emergency care center visits are made annually in the United States as a result of head trauma delivered to an infant or toddler.
The Damage Caused
Infants are particularly susceptible to head trauma because their neck muscles are underdeveloped, meaning that most of the energy is transferred directly to the cranial area. And because the brain and cranial bone of an infant is only just beginning to develop, this area is quite sensitive to impact or strain. Swelling of the cranial area is the leading cause of death in SBS cases, as the tissues surrounding the brain cause a rapid response by the body’s defense system, which sends a large amount of blood and other fluid to this area in an attempt to cushion it and prevent infections.
Children who are often shaken in an attempt to quiet the child will indeed stop crying after a few moments. This is because the swelling has begun, which acts at first as a sort of natural anesthetic. Unfortunately the damage has already been done, which could include torn muscles and ruptured blood vessels, and it may be hours before the child is seen to have suffered a severe injury requiring immediate medical attention.
Legal Recourse for SBS
A thorough medical examination will determine if the baby or toddler has suffered head trauma due to an impact or through shaking. This finding will be passed along to law enforcement authorities and ultimately to the parent(s) of the child being abused. This can be a very stressful time once the truth concerning the cause of the injury is known. Normally all those involved in the child’s well-being will be interviewed and a full investigation will determine if criminal charges are likely or if a lawsuit is in order.
Those who believe their child was abused in this manner may seek not only criminal charges against the perpetrator but also monetary damages. Consulting with an attorney who specializes in infant abuse, especially infant brain injury resulting from shaking or impact, will reveal all legal recourse available.