Do Pediatricians Ask About Adverse Childhood Experiences in Pediatric Primary Care?

Acad Pediatr. 2016 Mar;16(2):154-60. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2015.08.002. Epub 2015 Oct 31.


Objective: The stress associated with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) has immediate and long-lasting effects. The objectives of this study were to examine 1) how often pediatricians ask patients' families about ACEs, 2) how familiar pediatricians are with the original ACE study, and 3) physician/practice characteristics, physicians' mental health training, and physicians' attitudes/beliefs that are associated with asking about ACEs.

Methods: Data were collected from 302 nontrainee pediatricians exclusively practicing general pediatrics who completed the 2013 American Academy of Pediatrics Periodic Survey. Pediatricians indicated whether they usually, sometimes, or never inquired about or screened for 7 ACEs. Sample weights were used to reduce nonresponse bias. Weighted descriptive and logistic regression analyses were conducted.

Results: Only 4% of pediatricians usually asked about all 7 ACEs; 32% did not usually ask about any. Less than 11% of pediatricians reported being very or somewhat familiar with the ACE study. Pediatricians who screened/inquired about ACEs usually asked about maternal depression (46%) and parental separation/divorce (42%). Multivariable analyses showed that pediatricians had more than twice the odds of usually asking about ACEs if they disagreed that they have little effect on influencing positive parenting skills, disagreed that screening for social emotional risk factors within the family is beyond the scope of pediatricians, or were very interested in receiving further education on managing/treating mental health problems in children and adolescents.

Conclusions: Few pediatricians ask about all ACEs. Pediatric training that emphasizes the importance of social/emotional risk factors may increase the identification of ACEs in pediatric primary care.

Keywords: ACE; adverse childhood experiences; pediatric primary care; screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / diagnosis*
  • Child Psychiatry / education
  • Child of Impaired Parents*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Depressive Disorder*
  • Divorce
  • Domestic Violence
  • Exposure to Violence*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Mass Screening
  • Middle Aged
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Pediatrics* / education
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians'*
  • Primary Health Care*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires