Helping parents understanding the infant's needs, development, and behavior, along with educating the parents in the area of proper parenting constitutes vital components for the prevention of SBS.
In the article, "New programs target shaken-baby syndrome," Alex Newman (2008) relates the following prevention tactics:
Check if baby needs to be changed/fed/burped.
Check if baby is too hot/too cold.
Make sure baby's clothes fit comfortably.
Play white noise (radio, TV static, fan, vacuum).
Rock gently or use a baby swing.
Pick up baby and cuddle, hum, sing or talk in a soothing voice.
Take baby for a ride in car or stroller. (Newman)
To help the potential shaker calm a crying child under 2-years-old, he/she could consider these steps:
Put the child in a safe place. Walk away.
Listen to music, read, call a friend to talk.
Check on your baby every 5 to 10 minutes. (Newman)
In "Project baby care: A parental training program for students with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders," Catherine Roberts, Clara Wolman, and Judy Harris-Looby, full-time faculty in the Graduate Exceptional Education Program, Barry University, Miami Shores, Florida, relate concerns regard the annually increase in the rate of reported child abuse fatalities. "Whiplash and other symptoms of shaken baby syndrome (SBS) were reported [in 2004] as the cause of death in 17% of fatal child abuse cases" (Roberts, Wolman and Harris-Looby, ¶ 1). Statistics suggest that those teenage parents with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD) may be at higher risk of impulsive behavior and use violent and abusive behaviors with their children. Young aggressive, at-risk men are also reportedly more likely than other men to implement injurious parenting strategies with their children.
To counter and prevent SBS, Roberts, Wolman and Harris-Looby stress that students need to be taught parenting skills. This may proffer one of the most "cost-effective ways to reduce violent and abusive behaviors and prevent the transfer of violent behaviors from generation to generation" Roberts, Wolman and Harris-Looby, ¶ 3). Project Baby Care, a contemporary parental training program developed and adapted for adolescents with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders (EBD) costs less than $1,000. This program has proved to successfully increase the student's parental knowledge and skills, as well as improve his/her regarding the care of an infant. The curriculum for Project Baby Care includes two primary components:
1. A practical component of hand s-on experiences involving the interaction of students with computerized doll-babies, and
2. A traditional component of reading, writing, and watching films. (Roberts, Wolman and Harris-Looby, ¶ 3)
Doug Brunk, author of "Studies aim to prevent abusive head trauma," reports that numerous researchers currently educate parents about the "period of PURPLE crying" (¶ 160, a concept Dr. Ronald G. Barr and the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome developed. Brunk explains the concept presented in Figure 2 which depicts the letters in "PURPLE," which stand for characteristics of nonstop crying in infants that parents frequently have to contend with.
Figure 2: PURPLE Intervention Program Acronym (adapted from Brunk).
Ways to Respond
Part of the PURPLE intervention includes instructing parents on ways to respond to the baby's crying when it becomes frustrating. The program stresses that the parent also needs to relate this information to other individuals who will care for their child. These messages will be reinforced at well-child visits. (Brunk) Programs such as these offer the opportunity for positive interventions to contribute to prevent SBS.
Michele Poole, a volunteer consultant and fundraiser for National Center on Shaken Baby Syndromen (NCSBS) asserts that more Web sites have begun to relate information the dangers of shaking a baby, as well as information about caring for infants without harming them. In "Living with the Consequences-My Family's SBS Journey," Poole also points out that numerous groups support mandatory education in hospitals. In addition, a number of individuals have shared their personal stories on television or in print, revealing the help they received. In light of the increasing incidents of SBS: "Many states have passed laws to stiffen punishment for perpetrators" (Poole, ¶ 10). More work, however, Poole, stresses needs to be done to combat SBS.
Schwartz and Linzer argue that as the State maintains legal responsibility to ensure the welfare of its children, the State needs to legislate statutes to make parents liable when they fail to protect their children. Not every State, albeit, has passed such laws in regard to SBS. Those
States that do enact these laws enable the State to prosecute those passive parents and subject them to criminal penalties for failing to protect their children. Typically, the perpetrator is sentenced to serve a prison term, while the "bystander" may also similarly be sentenced. The length of the prison sentences varies, and may require the abuser and bystander to complete a lengthy probation, along with community service.
What may also prove effective, the researcher asserts, along with investigation by law enforcement officials ("Shaken Baby…"), as noted at this paper's start would be, that no matter where SBS occurs in the world, the abusers also be educated regarding what all SBS actually involves. This would benefit not only for the potential and practicing abuser but also contribute to helping ensure the health and lives of their children do not become statistics of SBS.
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