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Singapore Med J. 1998 Apr;39(4):160-5.

Doctors' and lawyers' perspectives of child abuse and neglect in Singapore.

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Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Woodbridge Hospital/Institute of Mental Health, Singapore.

Erratum in

  • Singapore Med J 1998 Jul;39(7):299.



To investigate the Singaporean doctor's and lawyer's definition of child abuse and neglect, their attitudes towards reporting and their manner of handling suspected cases.


A self-addressed questionnaire survey was carried out in a population of hospital doctors, family physicians and lawyers. A total of 368 respondents participated in the survey.


Most respondents had similar parenting attitudes. The majority felt that child abuse occurred sporadically but 25% of family physicians felt it seldom occurred. Thirty-eight per cent of family physicians had a personal definition of child abuse compared to less than a third of hospital doctors. There was a high consensus among all 3 groups concerning 21 behaviours studied. In all 3 groups, more than 80% agreed that having sex, burning child, tying child and not protecting the child from sexual advances were both unacceptable and abusive. More than 80% of respondents felt that some form of compulsory reporting is necessary in Singapore. Doctors preferred to refer cases of physical abuse to the hospital while lawyers preferred the police. All agreed that sexual abuse is a matter for the police. Respondents were more likely to act in cases of physical abuse and sexual abuse than for cases of emotional abuse and neglect.


There is a need to formalise definitions of child abuse in our society. More education and training in the understanding and handling of child abuse by doctors and lawyers may be necessary.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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