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`BABY SHAKERS' MOST OFTEN ARE MALES, UTAH STUDY SAYS

Utah males are found guilty of causing "shaken baby syndrome" far more often than females are, according to a new study.

The report, just released by the Child Abuse Council of Ogden, says nearly 80 percent of those who engage in shaking babies are males."The percentage of male victims is also high, 63 percent," said Marilyn Sandberg, executive director of the Child Abuse Prevention Council, "indicating perhaps some unrealistic expectations of male babies by their male caretakers."

The report stated the syndrome causes a baby serious mental and physical damage and in many cases even death.

"This research project represents a critical milestone in the Child Abuse Prevention Council's efforts to improve our `Don't Shake Your Baby' program," Sand-berg said. "Accurate statistics on cases of shaken baby syndrome were necessary to us in order to provide an accurate representation of the problem in Utah as well as target high-risk audiences."

The council gathered data from agencies throughout the state including hospitals, social service agencies, county attorneys, the attorney general's office, the Child Fatality Review Committee, the state medical examiner, and the Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics.

The study includes findings taken from an analysis of 36 incidents of shaken baby syndrome occurring in Utah from April 1989 to December 1993, the report said.

Stacy Iverson, project coordinator, said the findings are consistent with national studies that also indicate men more often are disposed to the syndrome.

"This may reflect the fact that with the increasing number of women working, men are looking after the children more often," she said. "It could also reflect a subconscious/cultural problem. More research will be necessary, though."

Iverson believes that as a result of the study, more effort should be directed toward educating men.

"We definitely will modify our program because of these findings," Iverson said. "Much of our coping strategies speak more to women than men. It's been female-oriented. For example, we may suggest taking out frustrations on a basketball court as well."

Don't Shake Your Baby Project is a national program initiated about five years ago by director Jacy Showers. It currently includes agencies and organizations from 32 states. Showers also is director of special projects, Pueblo City/County Health Department, Pueblo, Colo.

She said the project's goal is to include all 50 states and Puerto Rico in the program.

"The Ogden project is on the cutting edge," Showers said. "It ranks at the top. It's an excellent start, but we need more research like theirs." She believes the findings have revealed that more males are involved with the syndrome because it is a "social/cultural thing."