Patients' advice to physicians about intervening in family conflict

Ann Fam Med. 2005 May-Jun;3(3):248-54. doi: 10.1370/afm.287.


Purpose: We wanted to understand patients' views about physician interventions with family violence and conflict.

Methods: Clinic staff surveyed 253 male and female family practice patients in 6 member offices of the South Texas Ambulatory Research Network (STARNet). The survey instrument addressed demographics, relationship quality, intimate partner violence, and physician interventions with family conflict. Open-ended questions asked respondents to provide advice for "doctors who want to help patients with severe family problems."

Results: Among women in relationships, 10% reported being physically hurt by a partner in the past year and 39% in their lifetimes. Among men in relationships, 7% reported physically hurting their partner in the past year and 16% in their lifetimes. Nearly all respondents, including 100% of victims and perpetrators of violence, believed physicians should ask about family conflict (96%), and that physicians could be helpful (93%). Two thirds of the sample reported that their physician had never asked them about family conflict. Investigators used qualitative analysis to summarize patients' advice to physicians. Responses clustered around 3 general themes: communication, assistance, and cautions or encouragement. Patients want physicians to ask about family conflict, listen to their stories, and provide information and appropriate referrals. They raised some cautions and concerns, but also provided words of encouragement.

Conclusion: Most patients are open to discussions about family conflict with their physicians. The skills they recommend to physicians are well within the domain of family medicine training.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude*
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Domestic Violence / prevention & control*
  • Family Practice*
  • Family Relations*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Physician's Role*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires