A recent post on one of the SBS Listservs noted a blog post by a BMW owner that described an exhaust system problem as "shaken baby syndrome" and observed that the use of the term is finding its way into common speech.
In response, I offered two thoughts about why that's not necessarily good:
- as with many other technical phrases that find their way into common speech, being familiar with the phrase isn't necessarily understanding the phenomena.
When I do a Google blog search, it frequently finds SBS used as a modifier or adverb to connote an excessive, agitated or frantic level of an ordinary activity, such as "she danced so hard I thought she would get shaken baby syndrome" or "the ride was so bumpy I thought my baby would get shaken baby symdrome."
In some respects, that's cause for concern because (1) when the term is used in common parlance, it tends to have a trivializing/desensitizing effect and (2) it reflects an inacurate understanding of the actual physical process.
A related issue: awareness of the term "SBS" doesn't mean understanding, and it doesn't necessarily translate into prevention action. Prevent Child Abuse American wrote some important policy memos a few years back lamenting that the increased awareness of child abuse hasn't translated into increased prevention efforts and emphasizing the need to reframe prevention.
Awareness of the term is necessary, but it's not sufficient for prevention.
And that's especially apparent when the media focuses on reporting the crime, not what could have been done to prevent it.
Watching news reports will make parents aware of SBS, but the psychological process they use to "make sure" it won't happen to their child is to focus on the distinctions between "those people" and "us".
That's what makes child care cases especially unnerving for folks who have kids in child care: they want to know what was wrong with that child care provider and how he/she was able to fool the parents.
The work that Prevent Child Abuse America has done on "reframing" abuse is essential reading in order to develop persisting and effective prevention measures.
- second thought is just that the use of this term as part of common speech is still fairly unusual. Blog searches bring us the hits, but they don't tell us how common the term is.
By the way, the term "frenetic" seems like it was made to apply to the actions that lead to SBS
Definitions of frenetic on the Web:
frantic: excessively agitated; transported with rage or other violent emotion; "frantic with anger and frustration"; "frenetic screams followed ...