Child abuse increases the day after school report cards are released — but only when kids get their grades on a Friday, a Florida study suggests.(AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)
When teachers hand out report cards on Fridays, child abuse increases on Saturdays.
That’s the finding of a study published in JAMA Pediatrics on Monday that shows abuse doesn’t necessarily increase regardless of the day kids receive their grades. But researchers found a nearly fourfold increase in confirmed reports of child abuse on Saturdays immediately following Friday report card distributions at Florida Public Schools.
The study focused on children ages 5 to 11 and analyzed reports made to the Florida Department of Children and Families abuse hotline during the 2015-2016 academic year. Researchers considered 1,943 verified abuses cases called in to the hotline from 64 counties where report card distribution dates were publicly available. Fridays were the most popular report card release day at nearly 31 percent.
“Physical abuse included physical injury, bizarre punishment, asphyxiation, burns, bone fracture, or internal injuries,” the study authors wrote. Of the more than 167,000 calls the hotline received within researchers’ parameters, only 7 percent were verified as physical abuse.
The study’s authors explained that “physical abuse is often accompanied by parental anger about a child’s behavior or failure to meet demands.” In this case, “children who receive poor grades or negative remarks on their school report card may be at risk of physical punishment if their performance is not to the parent’s standard or if they are reported misbehaving, inattentive, or disruptive in the classroom,” the authors wrote.
Corporal punishment remains legal in all U.S. states, but the issue has grown increasingly divisive in debates on child development. Just last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics updated its policy on corporal punishment, calling for a ban on the disciplinary approach.
Dr. Antoinette L. Laskey, the chief of the child protection and family health division of the University of Utah, wrote in an accompanying editorial published in JAMA Pediatrics that the findings are “more troubling” as the abuse may come when teachers or adults can’t see the children to identify or report such behavior.
Researchers also suggested caregivers may avoid “harsh punishment” when children will see teachers the next day. Another reason for the lower early- and mid-week abuse calls, they theorized, may be that caregivers are too distracted by other pressing activities to punish their kids when report cards come home on those days.
Regardless, the findings provide an opportunity for a “systems-based opportunity” to prevent physical abuse, the authors suggested.
Researchers noted that they could not definitively say that report cards were the direct cause of abuse, and additional studies should be conducted with a larger sample, to widen data to include private schools and home-school programs and to track children who experience repeated incidents.
Megan Trimble, Digital News Editor
Megan Trimble is the digital news editor for Civic at U.S. News & World Report. You can follow … Read moreMegan Trimble is the digital news editor for Civic at U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn or send her an email at email@example.com.