The link between hearing impairment and child maltreatment among Aboriginal children in the Northern Territory of Australia: is there an opportunity for a public health approach in child protection?

Vincent Yaofeng He, Steven Guthridge, Jiunn-Yih Su, Damien Howard, Kylie Stothers, Amanda Leach

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Background: International studies provide evidence of an association between child disabilities, including hearing impairment (HI), and child maltreatment. There are high prevalences of ear disease with associated HI, and child maltreatment among Australian Aboriginal children, but the link between HI and child maltreatment is unknown. This study investigates the association between HI and child maltreatment for Aboriginal children living in the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia.

    Methods:
    This was a retrospective cohort study of 3895 Aboriginal school-aged children (born between 1999 and 2008) living in remote NT communities. The study used linked individual-level information from health, education and child protection services. The outcome variables were child maltreatment notifications and substantiations. The key explanatory variable, HI, was based on audiometric assessment. The Kaplan–Meier estimator method was used in univariate analysis; Cox proportional hazards regression was used in multivariable analysis.

    Results: A majority of the study cohort lived in very remote (94.5%) and most disadvantaged (93.1%) regions. Among all children in the study cohort, 56.1% had a record of either HI or unilateral hearing loss (UHL), and for those with a history of contact with child protection services (n = 2757), 56.7% had a record of HI/UHL (n = 1564). In the 1999–2003 birth cohort, by age 12 years, 53.5% of children with a record of moderate or worse HI had at least one maltreatment notification, compared to 47.3% of children with normal hearing. In the 2004–2008 cohort, the corresponding results were 83.4 and 71.7% respectively. In multivariable analysis, using the full cohort, children with moderate or worse HI had higher risk of any child maltreatment notification (adjusted Hazard Ratios (adjHR): 1.16, 29 95% CI:1.04–1.30), notification for neglect (adjHR:1.17, 95% CI:1.04–1.31) and substantiation (adjHR:1.20, 95% CI:1.04– 30 1.40), than children with normal hearing. In the 2004–2008 birth cohort, children with moderate or worse HI had higher risk of a substantiated episode of physical abuse (adjHR:1.47, 95% CI:1.07–2.03) than children with normal hearing.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number449
    Pages (from-to)1-11
    Number of pages11
    JournalBMC Public Health
    Volume20
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 6 Apr 2020

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