Educational interventions to prevent paediatric abusive head trauma in babies younger than one year old: A systematic review and meta-analyses

Lauren J Scott*, Rebecca Wilson, Philippa Davies, Mark D Lyttle, Julie Mytton, Sarah Dawson, Sharea Ijaz, Maria Theresa Redaniel, Jo Williams, Jelena Savović

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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Paediatric abusive head trauma (AHT) occurs in young children due to violent shaking or blunt impact. Educational and behavioural programmes modifying parent/infant interactions may aid primary prevention. This systematic review aims to assess the effectiveness of such interventions to prevent AHT in infants.

We searched Embase, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, The Cochrane library, CINAHL databases and trial registries to September 2021, for studies assessing the effectiveness of educational and behavioural interventions in preventing AHT. Eligible interventions had to include messaging about avoiding or dangers of infant shaking. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) reporting results for primary (AHT, infant shaking) or secondary outcomes (including parental responses to infant crying, mental wellbeing), and non-randomised studies (NRSs) reporting primary outcomes were included. Evidence from combinable studies was synthesised using random-effects meta-analyses. Certainty of evidence was assessed using GRADE framework. PROSPERO registration CRD42020195644.

Of 25 identified studies, 16 were included in meta-analyses. Five NRSs reported results for AHT, of which four were meta-analysed (summary odds ratio [OR] 0.95, 95 % confidence intervals [CI] 0.80–1.13). Two studies assessed self-reported shaking (one cluster-RCT, OR 0.11, 95 % CI 0.02–0.53; one cohort study, OR 0.36, 95 % CI 0.20–0.64, not pooled). Meta-analyses of secondary outcomes demonstrated marginal improvements in parental response to inconsolable crying (summary mean difference 1.58, 95 % CI 0.11–3.06, on a 100-point scale) and weak evidence that interventions increased walking away from crying infants (summary incidence rate ratio 1.52, 95 % CI 0.94–2.45). No intervention effects were found in meta-analyses of parental mental wellbeing or other responses to crying.

Low certainty evidence suggests that educational programmes for AHT prevention are not effective in preventing AHT. There is low to moderate certainty evidence that educational interventions have no effect or only marginally improve some parental responses to infant crying.
Original languageEnglish
Article number105935
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Early online date26 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration West (ARC West) at University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the NHS, the NIHR, or the Department of Health and Social Care.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s)


  • Abusive head trauma
  • Shaken baby syndrome
  • Paediatric
  • Infants
  • Systematic review
  • Meta-analysis


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