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US Preventive Services Task Force. The Guide to Clinical Preventive Services 2007: Recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Rockville (MD): Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (US); 2007 Sep.

  • This publication is provided for historical reference only and the information may be out of date.

This publication is provided for historical reference only and the information may be out of date.

Cover of The Guide to Clinical Preventive Services 2007

The Guide to Clinical Preventive Services 2007: Recommendations of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.

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Injury and Violence

Screening for Family and Intimate Partner Violence

Summary of Recommendation

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) found insufficient evidence to recommend for or against routine screening of parents or guardians for the physical abuse or neglect of children, of women for intimate partner violence, or of older adults or their caregivers for elder abuse. Rating: I Recommendation.

Clinical Considerations

  • The USPSTF did not review the evidence for the effectiveness of case-finding tools; however, all clinicians examining children and adults should be alert to physical and behavioral signs and symptoms associated with abuse or neglect. Patients in whom abuse is suspected should receive proper documentation of the incident and physical findings (e.g., photographs, body maps); treatment for physical injuries; arrangements for skilled counseling by a mental health professional; and the telephone numbers of local crisis centers, shelters, and protective service agencies.
  • Victims of family violence are primarily children, female spouses/intimate partners, and older adults. Numerous risk factors for family violence have been identified, although some may be confounded by socioeconomic factors. Factors associated with child abuse or neglect include low income status, low maternal education, non-white race, large family size, young maternal age, single-parent household, parental psychiatric disturbances, and presence of a stepfather. Factors associated with intimate partner violence include young age, low income status, pregnancy, mental health problems, alcohol or substance use by victims or perpetrators, separated or divorced status, and history of childhood sexual and/or physical abuse. Factors associated with the abuse of older adults include increasing age, non-white race, low income status, functional impairment, cognitive disability, substance use, poor emotional state, low self-esteem, cohabitation, and lack of social support.
  • Several instruments to screen parents for child abuse have been studied, but their ability to predict child abuse or neglect is limited. Instruments to screen for intimate partner violence have also been developed, and although some have demonstrated good internal consistency (e.g., the HITS [Hurt, Insulted, Threatened, Screamed at] instrument, the Partner Abuse Interview, and the Women's Experience with Battering [WEB] Scale), none have been validated against measurable outcomes. Only a few screening instruments (the Caregiver Abuse Screen [CASE] and the Hwalek-Sengstock Elder Abuse Screening Test [HSEAST]) have been developed to identify potential older victims of abuse or their abusive caretakers. Both of these tools correlated well with previously validated instruments when administered in the community, but have not been tested in the primary care clinical setting.1
  • Home visit programs directed at high-risk mothers (identified on the basis of sociodemographic risk factors) have improved developmental outcomes and decreased the incidence of child abuse and neglect, as well as decreased rates of maternal criminal activity and drug use.

This USPSTF recommendation was first published in: Ann Intern Med. 2004;140(5):382–386.


Nelson HD, Nygren P, Qazi Y. Screening for Family and Intimate Partner Violence. Systematic Evidence Review No. 28. (Prepared by the Oregon Health & Science Evidence-based Practice Center under Contract No. 290-97-0018). Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. February 2004. (Available on the AHRQ Web site at: www​
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