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Leading Causes of Death in Children

Nathan Eppich

Brigham Young University – Idaho

NURSE – 410

Kathy Barnhill, Holly Forbush

September 30, 2018


Leading Causes of Death In Children

This paper will go over the leading causes of death in each age group. These age

groups will include infancy, toddler, preschool age, school age, and adolescents. It will also

cover the actions that can be taken to help prevent these tragic deaths from occurring.


Infancy includes children from newborn to one year of age. Losing a child during

infancy is a very emotional and devastating experience that, unfortunately, happens to

many families throughout the United States. Data collected in 2016 shows that the infant

mortality rate was 5.9 deaths per 1,000 live births with more than 23,000 infants dying per

year (Infant mortality, 2017). The leading causes of death in infants are birth defects,

preterm birth, pregnancy complications, sudden infant death syndrome, and accidents. Of

the causes mentioned above, birth defects is the number one leading cause of death in

infancy. In 2015, birth defects affected one in every 33 babies and accounted for about

one-fifth of all infant deaths. The CDC is trying to confront this problem through a public

health approach. This approach will combine three important elements; disease tracking,

research to identify causes, and a prevention research programs (Infant mortality, 2017).

By implementing these three essential approaches, it will allow for every child in the

United States to be born with the best health care possible.


This age group includes those from the ages of one to three years old. Toddlers are

at a time in their lives where exploring and learning are a big part of their everyday life.

This can lead to too much curiosity and potentially death. The leading cause of death in this

age group from most common to least common is accidents (unintentional), congenital

anomalies, and homicide. Unintentional accidents include auto accidents, drowning, fires,

falling, and poisoning (Death among children and adolescents, 2018). The main focus of

this section is on automobile accidents since they are the leading cause of death.

Preventing these deaths can be done through proper car seat set up. Following a few

simple rules can ensure that the toddler is properly secure. First, it is important to place

the car seat into one of the back seats of the car and not in the passenger seat. Second, is to

be sure the seat belt is not too tight, this can be done by placing two fingers between the

belt and the child’s chest. Lastly, it is important to make sure the car seat is rear facing.

Abiding to these three simple rules can insure that the toddler is better protected from any

injury that may occur while driving.


Preschool age group includes children from the age of three to five years old. Just

like the previous age, this group of children can become very curious which may result in

harm. The three main causes of death for this age are unintentional injury (auto accidents),

congenital anomalies, and malignant neoplasms. Unintentional injury is the number one

cause of death (Perry et al., 2018). Unintentional injury can very from getting in a car

accident or actually getting hit by a car while playing in the street. No matter the cause, it is

important for parents and nurses to emphasize the importance of safety at this age (Perry

et al., 2018). Parents can begin to stress the importance of safety measures like not playing

in the street and wearing a helmet while riding bikes. Nurses can provide safety measures

by emphasizing three extremely important aspects of car safety to parents. Those three

aspects are effective car restraint system, locking mechanism, and proper seating in the car

(Perry et al., 2018). These deaths can be caused either by carefree behavior regarding car

safety or by collisions. Since parents of these toddlers don’t know when a crash could

potentially occur, it is critical that children are always put into a car seat no matter the

distance of the drive. If parents of these children don’t know the proper way of strapping

in their child, they can go down to the local police department and be instructed on the

correct way.

School Age

School age children include those from the ages of six to 12 years old. The most

common cause of death in this age group is motor vehicle death (pedestrian or passenger),

suicide, and malignant neoplasms (Perry et al., 2018). The sections of this paper will not

only focus on the leading cause of death in this age group (vehicle accidents), but also the

second leading cause of death (suicide). This time of life is when this age group starts to be

confronted with bullies, depression, physical body changes, school phobia, and different

emotions. For this reason, children start to feel unwanted and experience thoughts of

death and suicide. Death in this age group is thought of in a very different way then most

other stages of children (Salek & Ginsburg, 2104). It is seen as something that can’t happen

to them or their family members, but only to the elderly. Sometimes they can’t

comprehend how death will affect them so it causes them to feel anxious. This type of

thought process is what causes this age group to be intrigued with death and could be part

of the reason why suicide is the second leading cause of death. This group of children is

also confronted with harmful situation like motor vehicles accidents, drowning, burns, and

bodily damage. There are a few things that are mentioned in the Maternal Child Nursing

Care book that can help decrease the number of unwanted vehicle accidents (Perry et al.,

2018). These include educating children on proper use of seatbelts, reminding parents and

children that no one should be riding in the back of a pickup truck and lastly emphasizing

safe pedestrian behavior.


The age range of adolescence is defined as children ranging from 13 to 20 year olds.

This age group has similar leading causes of death as the school aged group. The top three

causes include accidents, suicide, and homicide with accidents being the number one cause

for this group. In 2015, there were 235,845 teens in the United States ages 16 to 19 treated

in the emergency department for car accidents. Of those 235,845 teens, 2,333 did not

survive (Teen Drivers, 2018). Teens are at higher risk then older adults because they

underestimate dangerous situations or do not recognize hazardous situation. They are also

much more likely to make decisions that put others in harms way while driving.

Suicide in this age group is very prevalent and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Adolescences go through a lot of emotional changes which makes them more vulnerable to

suicide thoughts. These thoughts should be taken seriously and assessed to see the

severity. Results from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance shows that 8% of

students nationwide have attempted suicide during the 12-month survey (Perry et al.,

2018). These states varied on average between 5.5% to 14.3%. Parents of these children

can help confront these situations through medical personal. They can help provide

anticipatory guidance by helping the parents form a positive communication that helps the

teens feel connected with their loved ones. Family and friends also need to be aware of the

teen’s mood swings and notify health care providers during times of depression, suicidal

talk, and impulsive behavior so they can help prevent suicide from occurring.


Centers for Disease. (2018, October 19). Teen drivers: Get the facts. Retrieved October 30,

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Centers for Disease. (2017, September 11). Infant mortality: What is CDC doing. Retrieved

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Centers for Disease. (2015, December 23). Childhood injury report. Retrieved October

30,2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/safechild/child_injury_data.html

Medline Plus. (2018, October 2018). Death among children and adolescents. Retrieved

October 30, 2018, from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001915.htm

Perry, S. E., & Crum, K. A. (2014). Virtual clinical excursions, obstetrics-pediatrics, for Perry,

Hockenberry, Lowdermilk, and Wilson, Maternal child nursing care, 5th edition.

Maryland Heights, MO: Elsevier Mosby

Salek, E. C., & Ginsburg, K. R. (2014). How children understand death & what you should

say. Retrieved from