Influence of race and socioeconomic status on the diagnosis of child abuse: A randomized study

Antoinette L. Laskey, Timothy E. Stump, Susan M. Perkins, Gregory D. Zimet, Steven J. Sherman, Stephen M. Downs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objectives: To measure empirically the influence of race and socioeconomic status (SES) on the diagnosis of child abuse and willingness to report to child protection services. Study design: A total of 5000 pediatricians randomly selected from the American Medical Association's Masterfile received 1 of 4 randomly assigned versions of a fictional clinical presentation of a child (black/white + high SES/low SES) that described an unwitnessed event in a mobile 18-month-old child resulting in an oblique femur fracture. Outcome measures included ranking the degree to which the injury was accidental versus abuse and agreement with reporting the injury to child protection services. Results: A total of 2109 of 4423 physicians responded (47.7%). Patient's race did not have an effect on a diagnosis of abuse (black, 45% versus white, 46%). Abuse was more likely to be diagnosed in patients with low SES (48% versus 43%, overall P =.02). Conclusion: This study supports earlier work demonstrating physicians' greater willingness to consider abuse as a potential cause of injury in low SES children. It failed to demonstrate the finding of retrospective, real world studies of an increased likelihood to consider abuse in black patients. Future work should try to understand why there remains a differential approach to evaluating minority children for abuse in real world settings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1003-1008.e1
JournalJournal of Pediatrics
Volume160
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2012

Keywords

  • AMA
  • American Medical Association
  • Child protective services
  • CPS
  • SES
  • Socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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