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June 2000Vol. 1, No. 4Pediatricians Urged: Stay Alert to Link Between Domestic Violence and Child Abuse

An article published in the May issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine indicates that pediatricians often fail to detect domestic violence among parents of their patients. Given the link between domestic violence and child abuse, the authors suggest, pediatricians should take a closer look.

The researchers interviewed pediatricians, pediatric nurse practitioners, and mothers drawn from a random sample of pediatric practices in the New Haven, Connecticut, area. The researchers interviewed the mothers and the health care providers of the same children.

The researchers found that mothers reported having been physically abused by a spouse or partner at higher rates than pediatricians reported detecting family violence. The study also found that 20 percent of mothers reported hitting their child hard enough to leave a mark, while 0.5 percent of pediatricians identified physical abuse of children among their patients. Mothers who reported domestic violence were significantly more likely to report hitting hard enough to leave a mark.

Because domestic violence is a risk factor for child abuse, the authors suggest that pediatricians should be prepared to discuss all aspects of family violence with patients and parents in routine pediatric assessments.

"Identifying spousal abuse might be an important means of identifying both physical and emotional abuse of children," the authors write, noting that child abuse occurs disproportionately in homes in which domestic violence occurs.

Pediatricians might have an advantage in opening discussions with parents about domestic violence because of the rapport they develop with parents, and they are in a unique position to recognize abuse, the authors note.

Also, the authors write, battered women might be more likely to disclose to a pediatrician rather than a physician specializing in adult medicine, because mothers might avoid obtaining health care for themselves but seek care for their children.

The complete article is available online to paid subscribers of the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine and to all American Medical Association members by registering at

For information about obtaining reprints, contact:

Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine
Author Reprints
515 North State St.
Chicago, IL 60610
Tel.: 312-464-4594
Fax: 312-464-4849

Related Items

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has revised its guidelines for preventive pediatric health care to address violence prevention. See "Pediatricians Sharpen Focus on Violence Prevention" in the April 2000 edition of CB Express.

For an article about a statistical analysis of violence against women, see "Justice Bureau Examines Rates of Violence Against Women" in this issue of the CB Express.

For other related CB Express articles, search our archives for "domestic violence."

The National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information provides information on the link between domestic violence and child abuse. To view or download a resource listing on family violence, visit

To request hard copies of Clearinghouse products, contact:
National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information
330 C St., SW
Washington, DC 20447
Tel.: 800-FYI-3366 or 703-385-7565
Fax: 703-385-3206