Distinct age-related differences among victims in cases of suspected child abuse

Marlene Beyer Eg, Troels Græsholt-Knudsen*, Kathrine Bang Madsen, Carsten Obel, Annie Vesterby Charles, Ole Ingemann-Hansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Evidence describing age-related differences among children with suspected physical and sexual child abuse is lacking. We describe findings in severe cases of suspected abuse. Cases with 756 children <15 years old were included during 2001–2013 at the Department of Forensic Medicine, Aarhus University, using forensic evaluation documents, medical records, and court proceedings. Eight percent of children <4 years old died from child abuse, 36% through violence resulting in death, and 64% by manslaughter, whereas 1% > 4 years old died, solely by manslaughter. External injuries were mainly located to head and torso in children <4 years old, changing to the upper and lower extremities in older children. Child sexual abuse was suspected in 52% of cases with living children <4 years old, 83% of children 4–7 years of age, 88% of children 8–11 years of age, and 93% of children >12 years old. Anogenital findings were mainly caused by other medical conditions in children <4 years old, hymenal clefts in the superior half of the hymenal rim were almost exclusively found in children between 8 and 11 years of age, whereas both superficial and complete hymenal clefts in the inferior half of the hymenal rim were found in children >12 years old. The present study describes age-related differences in victims of suspected child abuse. Fatal versus nonfatal child physical abuse and the significance of hymenal findings in child sexual abuse could be studied further.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Pages (from-to)252-263
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • age-related differences
  • anogenital findings
  • child abuse
  • child physical abuse
  • child sexual abuse
  • clinical forensic medicine
  • forensic medical examination
  • physical injuries


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