Figures showing that Utah's child-abuse rate is higher than the national average are "misleading and exaggerated figures that are not estimated on solid evidence," a Brigham Young University sociology professor says.

Instead, Utah's parent-to-child severe violence rate was 1.9 percent less than the national parent-to-child severe violence rate, Boyd Rollins said.Rollins' data come from information compiled in the BYU 1986 Study of Utah Families, which compares Utah with a 1985 national child-abuse survey.

Identical questions were used in both surveys, which were random samplings of the cases of child abuse per 1,000 children. The 1985 national survey found that in the average household, there were 10.7 percent severe violent child- abuse acts compared with 8.8 percent in Utah.

The BYU study is yet to be completed and published, but Rollins released information to the Deseret News to indicate that child abuse in Utah isn't as high as people say it is.

"It's too bad we send messages out that it is higher than it is. It really isn't," he said. "In no way am I suggesting that we don't have a problem. We do. But as far as child abuse is concerned our rate is lower."

Rollins said Utah's large population of children and high birth rate would suggest that Utah has a greater risk of child abuse, "but there must be some attitudes in Utah to counteract family violence."

With larger families there is a greater chance that children could be abused "because there are more kids with whom parents can run into a conflict. But from my data, Utah is below the national average," he said.

To be classified as severe violence, those responding to the survey indicated that in the past year, a family member kicked, bit, or hit another family member with a fist; hit or tried to hit a family member with something; beat a family member; threatened a family member with a gun or knife; or used a gun or knife on a family member.