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Am J Public Health. 1994 Apr;84(4):628-33.

Factors that influence clinicians' assessment and management of family violence.

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Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland 97201.



High rates of family violence and low rates of detection, report, and therapeutic intervention by health professionals are well documented. This study was undertaken to determine what factors influence clinicians' decision making about identifying abuse and intervening with victims.


Survey data about clinicians' experiences with and attitudes toward family violence were gathered by mailed questionnaire from a random sample of practicing clinicians in six disciplines (n = 1521).


Data showed similarities within and wide differences among three groups of subjects: dentists/dental hygienists, nurses/physicians, and psychologists/social workers. Overall, a third of subjects reported having received no educational content on child, spouse, or elder abuse in their professional training programs. Subjects with education on the topic more commonly suspected abuse in their patients than those without; among all subjects, spouse abuse was suspected more often than child abuse while elder abuse was suspected infrequently. Significant numbers of subjects did not view themselves as responsible for dealing with problems of family violence. Subjects indicated low confidence in and low compliance with mandatory reporting laws.


There is a need for educators to expand curricula on family violence and for legislators to reexamine mandatory reporting laws.

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