National Survey on the Use of Screening Tools to Detect Physical Child Abuse

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Recognition of physical child abuse is imperative for ensuring children’s safety. Screening tools (ST) may increase identification of physical abuse; however, the extent of their use is unknown. This study assessed use of STs for physical abuse in children’s hospitals and determined attitudes regarding STs.


A web-based survey was sent to child abuse program contacts at 103 children’s hospitals. The survey assessed institutional use of a ST for physical abuse and characteristics of the ST used. Respondents were asked to identify benefits and liabilities of STs used or barriers to ST use.


Seventy-two respondents (70 %) completed the survey; most (64 %) were child abuse pediatricians. Nine (13 %) respondents reported using a ST for physical abuse; STs varied in length, population, administration, and outcomes of a positive screen. Most respondents (86 %) using a ST felt that it increased detection of abuse. Barriers noted included lack of time for development and provider completion of a ST.


While few respondents endorsed use of a ST for physical abuse, most believed that it increased detection of abuse. Future research should focus on development of a brief, uniform ST for physical abuse which may increase detection in at-risk children.



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