Types of brain disorders
Shaken Baby Syndrome - Fact Sheet
Shaken Baby Syndrome is a form of Traumatic Brain
Injury that occurs when a baby is violently shaken causing damage
to the baby's fragile brain.
It causes long-term traumatic brain injury to the baby's
brain, which can result in learning difficulties and behavioural
problems later in life.
Why do people shake babies?
Some reasons for why Shaken Baby Syndrome occurs include:
- A person may lack experience with babies, be unprepared and
have little knowledge about babies. As a result a person may become
overwhelmed and frustrated at inconsolable crying and lose
- According to research by Becker (1998)  inconsolable crying
is one of the most commonly cited reasons for aggression towards
The Shaken Baby Prevention Project (SBPP) developed a model to
show some of the complex contributing factors leading to shaking.
The Model shows the parental behaviours, environmental factors and
child characteristics that may contribute to a shaking episode .
All these factors are coupled with no knowledge about the effects
of shaking a baby may contribute:
Factors about the baby: Age, crying
behaviour, high needs
Factors about the environment:
Isolation, domestic violence, lack of resources
Factors about the carer: Isolated,
How common is it?
Shaken Baby Syndrome is a widely under-reported and misdiagnosed
form of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Less severe
forms of shaken baby syndrome can be misdiagnosed as a viral
infection by GPs and emergency room doctors who are less familiar
with the symptoms of shaken baby syndrome. Also, survivors are
likely to suffer learning problems, epilepsy and behavioural
problems, which may be diagnosed as other conditions. For this
reason it is difficult to get accurate numbers for Shaken Baby
What are the signs of Shaken Baby Syndrome?
Shaken baby injuries usually occur in children younger than 2
years old, but may be seen in children up to the age of 5.
Injuries related to Shaken Baby Syndrome:
- Brain hemorrhages
- Permanent TBI
- Bleeding in the eyes
- Spinal cord damage
- Fracture of the ribs and bones
- Poor feeding
- Breathing problems
- Pale or blue skin
What damage does it cause to the family and
- Suffering an inflicted traumatic brain injury at
an early age places children at risk of significant impairment in
their development. Learning difficulties, behaviour problems,
- Mild to severe impairments can impact cognitive, social,
physical, emotional and behavioural functioning. This can lead to
problems with meeting milestones in life and adjustment
- There may be difficulties in the school system.
- Costs to family to provide additional support
- Any cognitive/behavioural difficulties may be mistaken as a
personality flaw and so a person's relationships can be
- Problems due to TBI may go undetected causing lifelong
difficulties with employment and relationships
What support is out there for children who have
Adults Surviving Child Abuse: ASCA is a national Australian
non-government organisation dedicated to the health and wellbeing
of adult survivors of all forms of child abuse and neglect. PH.
1300 657 380
References and further information
Becker, J.C., Liersch, R., Tautz, C., Schlueter, B., &
Andler, W. (1998). Shaken baby syndrome: report on four pairs of
twins. Child Abuse & Neglect, 22, 931-937.
National Centre on Shaken Baby Syndrome
Parents Under Pressure Program
My Time - Supporting Parents of Children With Disability
Shaken Baby Syndrome Information Western Australia