Non-accidental burns in children--are we neglecting neglect?

Burns. 2006 Mar;32(2):222-8. doi: 10.1016/j.burns.2005.08.018. Epub 2006 Jan 31.


Although many studies have described burn abuse in detail, burns that have occurred as a result of neglect have been studied to a much lesser degree. A retrospective study of 440 hospitalised paediatric burns patients during 2000-2002 inclusive was performed. A multidisciplinary team investigation of suspicious cases was used. This included a home assessment. There were 41 cases of neglect (9.3%) and 395 cases of accidental burning (89.8%). Parental drug abuse, single parent families, delay to presentation and a lack of first aid were statistically more prevalent in the "neglect" group than in the "accidental" group. Children in the "neglect" group were also statistically more likely to have deeper burns and require skin grafting. 82.9% of children whose burns were deemed to be due to neglect had a previous entry on the child protection register. 48.8% were transferred into foster care. This study shows that burning by neglect is far more prevalent than abuse. We advocate a multidisciplinary investigation coupled with the use of home assessments to aid diagnosis. It may be possible to target preventative strategies on the children with the above risk factors.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Home / prevention & control
  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health Services
  • Burns / etiology*
  • Burns / pathology
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / diagnosis*
  • Child Abuse / prevention & control
  • Child Health Services
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Single-Parent Family / statistics & numerical data
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology