Physical Abuse of Young Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Alarming Increase in the Relative Frequency of Hospitalizations During the Lockdown Period

Mélanie Loiseau, Jonathan Cottenet, Sonia Bechraoui-Quantin, Séverine Gilard-Pioc, Yann Mikaeloff, Fabrice Jollant, Irène François-Purssell, Andreas Jud, Catherine Quantin


In France, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a general lockdown from mid-March to mid-May 2020, forcing families to remain confined. We hypothesized that children may have been victims of more physical abuse during the lockdown, involving an increase in the relative frequency of hospitalization.


Using the national administrative database on  all  admissions to  public and private hospitals (PMSI), we selected all children aged 0–5 years hospitalized and identified physically abused children based on ICD-10 codes. We included 844,227 children hospitalized in March-–April 2017–2020, of whom 476 (0.056%) were admitted for physical abuse. Relative frequency of hospitalization for physical abuse observed in March to April 2020 were compared with those from the same months in the three previous years (2017–2019).


Even if  absolute number of  children exposed to  physical abuse did  not  fluctuate significantly, we found a significant increase in the relative frequency of young children hospi-talized for physical abuse from 2017 (0.053%) to 2020 (0.073%). Compared with the 2017–2019 period, and considering the  observed decrease in  the  number of  overall hospital admissions during the first lockdown, the number of children exposed to physical violence was 40% superior to what would be expected.