Child abuse increases the day after school report cards are released — but only when kids get their grades on a Friday, a study in Florida suggests. The curious finding startled researchers, who had figured abuse might go up regardless of the specific day kids got their grades.
But their study of reports to a child abuse hotline that included broken bones, burns and other confirmed abuse found otherwise. An increase only occurred on Saturdays after a report-card Friday. Though overall rates were small, there were almost four times more cases on those Saturdays than on other Saturdays. No apparent connection between report cards and abuse was found on other days of the week.
“Anecdotally, we know a lot of parents will spank their children or use corporal punishment if they’re unsatisfied with their school work,” said University of Florida psychologist Melissa Bright, the lead author.
That punishment may become abusive when kids don’t have school the next day and parents think injuries might be more likely to go unnoticed, the researchers said, noting that teachers are required to report suspected child abuse. Or, it could be that severe punishment is less likely on weekdays when parents are too busy to focus on report cards, Bright said,
But she acknowledged those theories are speculation and that the findings aren’t proof.
The study was published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.