Guest Post: The Grocery Store Dilemma

By Dr. Monique Higginbotham
Dr. Higginbotham is a pediatrician specializing in child abuse

We have all had this experience. We are in a public place and a parent is disciplining their child. As the situation escalates to a fever pitch, we wonder if we should intervene or just ‘mind our own business.’ What should we say to a parent, who has clearly lost their patience with a child?

I found myself in this very situation one evening in the grocery store. While gazing in the prepared foods case, I overheard a woman yelling. I turned around to see a woman whose face was contorted in an angry scowl. She glared at her son seated in the shopping cart. He appeared to be about 2 years old, and he gazed up at her with big, questioning eyes.

Just then she started hitting him, for what rule infraction I was not sure. Pap-pap-pap-pap-pap-pap-pap! Smacking him on his arms and legs, whatever limb she could reach. It stopped me in my tracks. “Whoa – what the – hunh? Did anyone else see that?” I thought, as I looked around at other shoppers. Surely someone else shared my concern. No one appeared to notice. People looked the other way. “Perhaps I’m over-reacting,” I thought, hoping it was an isolated incident.

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National Child Abuse Prevention Month

According to the most recent Child Maltreatment Report, released by Administration for Children and Families in 2010, about 3.3 million referrals alleging child maltreatment were filed with child welfare agencies, involving 5.9 million children.

Children birth to 3 years old represented the largest group of confirmed child abuse and neglect victims. Caucasian children were victims of maltreatment in 44 percent of the cases, the most of any other race, but African American children were victimized at a higher rate. Most children (78 percent) were reported for neglect, while 18 percent suffered from physical abuse.

From all of those statistics, some could highlight a specific population most at risk, but child abuse and neglect is not specific to any one race, religion or community.

Also documented in the Child Maltreatment Report, an average of 1,560 children have died from child abuse and neglect in the United States each of the past five years. The victims vary in age, race and type of violence experienced.

As if the direct impact on children’s health, safety and well-being weren’t enough, the financial impact on the economy is staggering:

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