Dealing with Shaken Baby Syndrome
A study in the November 2008 issue of Child Abuse and Neglect examines the value of prevention measures designed to raise public awareness of the caregiving practices connected to Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS).
A sample of 264 adults (mean age 32 years) were recruited for participation at a large Northeastern university. Participants fell into two groups-those who regularly cared for children 46% and those who did not 54% . The researchers surveyed SBS awareness in the subjects prior to an educational intervention and at three times points 2, 6, and 12 weeks post-intervention longitudinally. Three intervention levels were used: Two different video conditions, each with an informational brochure, and the brochure-only condition. Survey responses were combined into five factor scores.
Analysis of survey results showed show consistent results for three of the five factors, predicting the highest likelihood of increased awareness for a teaching video intervention, followed by a testimonial video, and the lowest probability for increased awareness for the use of an intervention using only a brochure. Negative change, or decreased awareness, was not predicted by the type of intervention materials. Demographic variables were not significant predictors of either positive or negative change.
The researchers concluded that the addition of video materials, and in particular material focusing on teaching alternative behaviors, significantly increases the likelihood of positive changes in SBS awareness over interventions which use only a brochure. These results indicate a need for careful selection of educational materials for intervention programs concerned with preventing SBS through public awareness.My comment:
An interesting study, but there's more to be learned.
By way of background, an educational video was part of a program developed by Dr. Mark Dias to educate new parents about Shaken Baby Syndrome in the Buffalo area. It started in 1998 and since local hospitals incorporated the education program, the incidence of inflicted head injuries has dropped by 50%.
The program is being extended statewide this year in New York (if the funds in the budget aren't cut), and ten other states have adopted legislation to require hospitals to offer new parents the opportunity to learn how to keep their child safe.
Three things of note:
- participation is voluntary, and the rate depends on how well the nurse educators "frame" the video: "preventing injury" works much better than "preventing child abuse"
- the video used in NY ("Portrait of Promise") includes two surviving children. Seeing the consequences in terms of a child with inflicted injury seems more memorable than seeing a tombstone.
- while it is quite successful overall in reducing injury, there are at least 5 reports I've seen where a father has reportedly been shown the video and still has inflicted injury. There are many possible explanations: he may just have signed the form; he may have been in the room when the video was shown, but not watched it; he may have watched it, but not "got" the message about being prepared to cope with frustration; or he may have ignored it (a variation on the "I'm a good driver so I don't need to use a seat belt" guy style).
It would a very useful thing if more research could be done on the male response to this educational effort in particular, and early childhood education in general (for instance, recognizing potential signs of ASD and the importance of early intervention).
Do all/many/some men just tune these efforts out? Are there better ways to engage those men? (it's not your driving I'm worried about, honey - it's those bad drivers you're always pointing out to me...)
PS. Is there any website that offers psychology students suggestions on real-world research topics that they could explore?