Background: Recommendations for child health care providers to counsel patients and their families on violence prevention have been issued by a number of major health care organizations.
Objective: To assess the knowledge, attitudes, training, and practices of pediatricians concerning violence prevention counseling in the areas of family violence, discipline, television viewing, peer violence, and guns in the home.
Participants: A national random sample of 1350 pediatricians, divided equally among residents in their final year of training, practitioners who had completed their residency training within the last 5 years, and those who had completed their training more than 5 years ago.
Main outcome measures: Knowledge, attitudes, training, and current practices regarding violence prevention counseling.
Results: The overall response rate was 41%. When providing health supervision to patients, most pediatricians never or rarely screen for family and community violence, peer violence, and weapons. For example, 68% of residents and 73% of practitioners never or rarely screen for domestic violence, 56% of residents and 67% of practitioners never or rarely ask adolescents about their involvement in physical fighting, and 54% of residents and 56% of practitioners never or rarely identify families who have guns in the home. Regarding preparation for providing violence prevention counseling, 76% of residents and 83% of practitioners rated their training as inadequate. Receiving training in the prevention of child/adolescent violence in medical school (P<.001), residency (P<.001), or fellowship/continuing medical education (P=.002) were major determinants of more frequent violence prevention counseling. Pediatricians who believed that parents rarely or never follow through on a physician's advice about safe gun storage, switching to nonviolent disciplining techniques, or limiting their child's television viewing were less likely to ask or advise patients in these areas.
Conclusions: Pediatricians are not adequately prepared to provide violence prevention counseling, and few currently screen for exposure to family and community violence, peer violence, and access to weapons. Comprehensive information about violence prevention should be integrated into medical education, and the efficacy of violence prevention counseling strategies should be evaluated.