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Am J Prev Med. 1998 May;14(4):273-82.

Family violence curricula in U.S. medical schools.

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Boston University School of Medicine, MA 02118-2526, USA.



Family violence (adult domestic violence, child abuse/neglect, and elder abuse) is endemic. Victims of family violence are seen in every venue of health care, yet physicians do not routinely inquire about abuse, even when patients present with obvious clinical characteristics. Although a comprehensive health care response is key to a coordinated community-wide approach to family violence, most practicing physicians have never received education in any aspect of family violence, including child abuse. This paper reports the results of a survey of family violence instruction in medical schools.


A written survey of medical school deans and student representatives of all 126 U.S. medical schools was conducted to (1) determine curriculum content in family violence, (2) assess differences between deans' and students' perceptions of curricular offerings, and (3) compare the results of the current survey with those of an earlier curriculum survey conducted in 1987.


The majority of deans reported existing curriculum in all three topic areas of family violence. Compared to the 1987 survey, more deans reported existing curriculum in family violence. However, neither total instructional time nor curriculum during clinical training increased. Moreover, student and dean responses were discrepant regarding awareness of curriculum in domestic violence and elder abuse.


Despite an increase in the number of schools reporting curriculum in family violence, there does not appear to be increased attention to this problem, at least as measured by time devoted to teaching. Insights from this descriptive survey can promote ongoing efforts toward comprehensive curriculum development in family violence.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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