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Do Physicians Have Adequate Knowledge of Child Sexual Abuse? The Results of Two Surveys of Practicing Physicians, 1986 and 1996

NCJ Number
Child Maltreatment Volume: 5 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2000 Pages: 72-78
Kirsten A. Lentsch M.D.; Charles F. Johnson
Mark Chaffin
Date Published
7 pages
Two surveys conducted in 1986 and 1996 found physician knowledge of and biases regarding child sexual abuse changed over time.
Questionnaires, previously used in 1986, were mailed to 370 physicians in Columbus, Ohio. Consideration was paid to how physicians viewed five demographic factors that may increase the risk of child sexual abuse: low income, urban living, large family, white, and black. More physicians in 1996 correctly denied an association between specific sociological factors and the likelihood of child sexual abuse. In 1996, about 72 percent (in 1986 77 percent) of physicians said they checked the genitalia of pre-pubescent females more than half of the time. Physicians who saw more than 25 pediatric patients per week were significantly more likely to check the genitalia, whereas physicians with more than 10 years experience were less likely to check the genitalia. Physicians surveyed in 1996 were more knowledgeable about socioeconomic and behavioral aspects of child sexual abuse but continued to be deficient in identifying pre-pubescent female genital anatomy and in reporting suspected abuse. The authors believe more education is necessary to correct these deficits. 28 references, 5 tables, and 3 figures