Published: 26-01-2012 00:00 | Updated: 02-09-2015 14:57

Infant injuries on the decline

Swedish babies are living ever safer lives. A new study from Karolinska Institutet shows that the number of injuries amongst children under the age of two almost halved in the two decades from 1987 to 2007, a decline that coincided with a sharp rise in the amount of paternity leave taken out.

"Perhaps we can't give fathers all the credit for the decline in injuries during this period, the issue is more complex than that," says Professor Lucie Laflamme at the Department of Public Health Sciences. "But at least we can dismiss the claims of a few years ago that fathers as a group posed a danger to babies. This is absolutely not the case."

For their study, which is published in the scientific periodical The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, the researchers used data from the National Board of Health and Welfare's national patient registry to chart injuries in children under the age of two between 1987 and 2007. This was a period in which the amount of paternal leave trebled to more than 20 per cent of total parental leave taken. From the statistics the researchers could see that the number of child injuries almost halved during.

The researchers also looked more closely at the risk of injury to all first-born babies between 1988 and 1989. Of this group, 817 babies had suffered an injury that required hospital treatment while at home with the mother. The corresponding figure for the father was 67. In proportion to amount of parental leave taken, the babies thus had a 12 per cent lower risk of being injured when in the care of their fathers.

However, the difference between the mothers and fathers disappeared when a statistical adjustment was made for education. One result of this new analysis was that fathers who took parental leave were more likely to be more highly educated, and that there are generally fewer accidents in homes with academic parents. The researchers therefore conclude that men and women are equally capable of looking after babies as regards the risk of injury.

The researchers also recently presented their findings in an op-ed published in Svenska Dagbladet newspaper (link in swedish).


Dangerous dads? Ecological and longitudinal analyses of paternity leave and risk for child injury.
Laflamme L, Månsdotter A, Lundberg M, Magnusson C
J Epidemiol Community Health 2012 Nov;66(11):1001-4