Background: This study developed a screening tool for use by family physicians to identify and assess women patients experiencing emotional and/or physical abuse by their partner.
Methods: An initial set of eight questions developed for the Woman Abuse Screening Tool (WAST) was completed by both abused and non-abused women. Participants were also asked to indicate their comfort in answering the questions in both research and family practice contexts. They also completed the Abuse Risk Inventory and a demographic questionnaire. Analysis of the WAST included 1) standard assessment of the validity and reliability of the measure and 2) examination of the efficacy of further reducing the number of questions on the WAST for screening purposes.
Results: The final samples of abused (n = 24) and non-abused women (n = 24) differed significantly on a number of demographic and abuse variables. After eliminating one of the original items, a strong single factor structure was identified for the WAST that accounted for 85% of the total variance in responses to the WAST items. The WAST was found to be a highly reliable measure; coefficient alpha was estimated at.95. The scale also demonstrated construct and discriminant validity. The abused women reported being less comfortable responding to the WAST questions, in both the research and family practice contexts, than the non-abused women. The two WAST questions the abused women reported being most comfortable with were used to construct the WAST-Short for initial screening purposes. The WAST-Short correctly classified 100% of the non-abused women and 91.7% of the abused women.
Conclusions: The WAST demonstrated good reliability and validity and discriminated between abused and non-abused women. Development of the WAST-Short provides physicians with a relatively unobtrusive screening tool for assessing abuse. The use of additional WAST questions can be used to further explore the possibility that a woman patient is experiencing abuse by her partner. Further study includes field testing the WAST in the family practice setting.