Releasing report cards on Fridays may increase the rate of child physical abuse on the following Saturday, according to study results published in JAMA Pediatrics.
A retrospective study conducted by Melissa A. Bright, PhD, of the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and colleagues, included a review of calls to a state child abuse hotline and school report card release dates during 1 academic year in Florida, from September 8, 2015 to May 30, 2016. The study included 64 of 67 counties in the state, for a total of 16,960 study days. Participants included all children age 5 to 11 for whom calls were made.
During the study period, the child abuse hotline received 167,906 calls for children age 5 to 11; 17.8% (n=29,887) were for suspected incidents of physical abuse. Of these, 6.7% (n=2017) were verified cases of physical abuse; the researchers then excluded cases from the 3 counties with no available release dates, for a total of 1943 cases.
The results indicated that calls resulting in verified reports of child physical abuse occurred at an increased rate on Saturdays after a Friday report card release compared with Saturdays that did not follow a report card release (information ratio [IR], 3.75; 95% CI, 1.21-11.63; P =.02).
The researchers did not find any significant associations between report card release and IRs for any other days of the week.
“To the extent that children who receive poor report cards are punished by their caregivers and that this punishment sometimes crosses the line to physical abuse, several school district–level or state-level policy changes could be made to reduce the likelihood of physical abuse,” the researchers concluded.
Bright MA, Lynne SD, Masyn KE, et al. Association of Friday school report card release with Saturday incidence rates of agency-verified physical child abuse. [published online December 17, 2018]. JAMA Pediatr. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.4346