Physicians' attire as perceived by young children and their parents: the myth of the white coat syndrome

Pediatr Emerg Care. 1998 Jun;14(3):198-201. doi: 10.1097/00006565-199806000-00006.


Objective: To determine if young children have a preference regarding whether physicians do or do not wear a white coat.

Methods: One hundred one children, ages four to eight years, and their parents were recruited from the outpatient setting of a pediatric referral center. Two pairs of photographs, the same man with and without a white coat and the same woman with and without a white coat, were shown to the children and their parents, and both were asked which of each pair they would like to have as their or their child's doctor, respectively. Parents filled out a questionnaire rating the appropriateness of various aspects of a physician's attire and appearance.

Results: The children selected the person in the white coat 69% of the time. The parents also selected the white coat more often (66%). On the questionnaire parents identified a name tag as the most appropriate item of dress followed by a white coat. A groomed mustache and groomed beard were also rated favorably. Open-toed sandals, clogs, and shorts were rated negatively, while parents were neutral with respect to hospital greens, blouse and skirt or dress, and shirt and tie.

Conclusions: Physicians may wear a white coat without fear that they are negatively affecting their relationship with their pediatric patients four to eight years of age. The appropriateness of wearing a name tag is confirmed.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clothing*
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ontario
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Psychology, Child*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires