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August 1972

On the Theory and Practice of Shaking Infants: Its Potential Residual Effects of Permanent Brain Damage and Mental Retardation

Author Affiliations

From the departments of radiology and pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, and the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh.

Am J Dis Child. 1972;124(2):161-169. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1972.02110140011001

In the first modern discussion in 1946 of the parent-infant stress syndrome (PITS), or battered baby syndrome, I described six infants, 13 months or younger, who suffered from the combination of subdural hematomas and characteristic bone lesions.1 During the last 25 years2-5 substantial evidence, both manifest and circumstantial, has gradually accumulated which suggests that the whiplash-shaking and jerking of abused infants are common causes of the skeletal as well as the cerebrovascular lesions; the latter is the most serious acute complication and by far the most common cause of early death.6

Today we invite your attention to the evidence which supports our concept that the whiplash-shaking and jerking of infants are frequently pathogenic and often result in grave permanent damage to infantile brains and eyes. We shall also point out that potentially pathogenic whip-lash-shaking is practiced commonly in a wide variety of ways, under a wide