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Parental offending and children’s emergency department presentations in New South Wales, Australia


Objectives Children whose parents have a history of criminal offending may be at risk of higher rates of emergency department (ED) presentation, along with other adverse health outcomes. We used data from a large, population-based record linkage project to examine the association between maternal and paternal criminal offending and the incidence of ED presentations among child offspring.

Methods Data for 72 772 children with linked parental records were drawn from the New South Wales Child Development Study. Information on parental criminal offending (spanning 1994–2016) and child ED presentations (spanning 2005–2016; approximately ages 2–12 years) was obtained from linked administrative records. Cox proportional hazards regression analyses were conducted to examine the association between parental offending and the incidence of children’s ED presentations for any reason and for physical injury, while accounting for important covariates.

Results Child rates of ED presentation, particularly for physical injury, were higher among those with parental history of criminal offending, after adjusting for covariates. The magnitude of the association was higher for paternal criminal offending (ED presentation for any reason: HR=1.44 (95% CI 1.41 to 1.48); physical injury: HR=1.70 (95% CI 1.65 to 1.75)) than maternal criminal offending (any reason: HR=0.99 (95% CI 0.95 to 1.03); physical injury: HR=1.05 (95% CI 1.00 to 1.10)).

Conclusion Children of parents, particularly of fathers, with a history of criminal offending have an increased incidence of ED presentation, including for potentially avoidable physical injury. These findings require replication and further research to understand the mechanisms underlying these associations.

  • injury
  • child health
  • cohort studies

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