Trust in the Medical Profession Among Adolescents in an Emergency Department

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2020 Mar;36(3):e125-e128. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000001133.


Objective: The aims of this study were to assess trust in the medical profession among adolescents in an urban pediatric emergency department (ED) and explore factors associated with trust.

Methods: We used a computerized survey to assess personal trust, perceived trust among family/friends, health care use, general and genital examination preferences, health behaviors, and demographics among youth aged 14 to 19 years. The primary outcome was the mean composite score of a validated 5-item scale. Responses were summed (range, 5-25); higher scores indicated greater trust. We compared trust between subgroups using the t test for independent samples.

Results: We enrolled 150 adolescents (80% of approached); 146 completed the survey (mean age, 15.6 y; 40% male; 36% African American, 40% white, 17% Hispanic; 29% commercial insurance). The mean trust score was 19.51 ± 3.1 (range, 7-25), indicating a fairly high level of trust. Trust was not associated with race, ethnicity, sex, type of insurance, or health care use. The mean score for those with high paternal trust was higher than those reporting low paternal trust (19.8 ± 2.2 vs 15.3 ± 5.7, P = 0.02); there was no association with perceived trust among mothers or friends. Preference for a chaperoned genital examination was associated with lower trust and female sex.

Conclusions: Adolescents in this ED reported high levels of trust in the medical profession, and trust was not associated with race, ethnicity, sex, insurance, or health care use. Youth with lower trust preferred chaperoned genital examinations. Adolescent trust may be influenced by perceived trust among important adults. Exploration of these associations seems warranted to facilitate optimal sexual health outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Sexual Behavior / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Trust / psychology*
  • White People / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult