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J Adolesc Health. 2004 Jan;34(1):30-6.

Primary care providers' willingness to see unaccompanied adolescents.

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Duke University Medical Center, Box 3675, Durham, NC 27710, USA.



To describe primary care practitioners' office policies and willingness to provide medical care for unaccompanied adolescents aged 11-17 years.


A unique 32-item survey was mailed in June and July, 2001 to 1979 office-based pediatricians and family practitioners randomly selected from the American Medical Association's physician database. The survey included questions regarding demographic information, number of adolescents seen in the practice, office policies regarding adolescents alone in the clinic, and 5-point Likert scales regarding their willingness to see patients in various situations, as well as to see patients in 12 brief clinical scenarios. Predictors of the willingness to see adolescents alone were identified and entered into binomial logistic regression models. Specific policies included on the surveys were coded into groups.


Survey responses (n = 710) represented a 36% response rate. This sample included 288 family practitioners and 368 pediatricians; 43.3% of physicians reported having a specific policy regarding seeing adolescents without their parents present. Family practitioners were more likely than pediatricians to report having such a policy (51.3% vs. 38.2%, p =.001,), yet pediatricians reported a higher percentage of adolescents in their practices than family practitioners (22.6% vs. 12.4%, p <.0005). Not having a policy was an independent predictor of "often" or "always" seeing an adolescent alone for routine health maintenance (OR = 2.84, 95% CI 1.91-4.24) and urgent care visits (OR = 3.01, 95% CI 1.90-4.77). Specific policies varied, and many physicians assessed each case on an individual basis.


Specific policies are associated with a decreased willingness of physicians to see adolescents who are unaccompanied by a parent. Carefully developed clinic policies that are consistent with legal guidelines should be implemented in order to maximize adolescents' abilities to access care.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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