Common Sense Home

Common Sense Facts   How Can I Help?  What Can I Do?  Make a Donation to Support our Efforts...

Go directly to:
In the News
Relevant current newspaper articles.
- View by date
- View by topic
- View by state
Gun Lock Programs
Common Sense News
Coverage of Common Sense in the news.
- Our Activities
- Our Partners' Activities
Web Resources
A comprehensive catalog of relevant resources on the web.
Fact File
Significant facts on the subject, with links to sources.
State Info
State-specific headlines, statistics, and resources.
Audio/Video Room
Watch and download PSAs from national safety groups.
Bulletin Board
Share Your Thoughts: See what others have to say and post messages of your own.

In the News

Doctors urged to question kids about violence
Baltimore Sun, 3/19/2000

Dr. Maxine Hayes, a task force member and health officer for the Washington State Department of Health, recently discussed the academy’s violence policy during a visit to Maryland.

What do you envision doctors asking their patients regarding the potential for violence in a child’s home or school?
Some of the things I hope physicians will ask about is whether there are guns in the house, whether there is fighting or quarreling and how that’s settled — especially between adults and between adults and children.

How do parents discipline? Is there hitting? How do people manage their anger or frustration? Is there depression?

A lot of violence is influenced by whether people have been drinking. If a woman is pregnant, that is a vulnerable period for battery, too. Women and children, by far, are the majority of the victims when it comes to abuse and violent behavior so every opportunity to ask them these questions is important.

Don’t doctors already screen children for signs of abuse? How is this violence policy much different?

I wouldn’t assume doctors were always screening for abuse. In fact, the data suggests that if you are a member of a minority group, you get asked a different set of questions. For some majority families, their doctors never ask about these types of things. That’s a disservice to them.

As providers, our biases and attitudes carry over. When you count the data, it looks like a disproportionate share of abusive behavior is perpetuated by the minority is because we ask those questions of them in the first place. The majority population rarely ever gets asked about this.

I’ve always advocated that you ask everybody. Don’t try to guess who should be asked. I’d ask Bill Gates and his wife the same questions if they flew in from Seattle.

If a doctor finds risk factors present in a child’s life — say, the parents own a gun that’s not under lock and key — what is the physician expected to do?

Establishing whether a firearm is in the house is important. Then you should ask, have you taken measures of assuring safety of that firearm? Is it under lock and key? Is it loaded? All those things.

Could asking such a question really make a difference? In the recent shooting near Flint, Mich., the first-grader who shot his classmate was allegedly exposed to a lot of anti-social behavior.

I don’t know the circumstance of that situation. But at some point of that child’s life, he was under the care of some primary provider, possibly a pediatrician. Some questions should have been established about the social and environmental context of that family.

I think providers often miss opportunities to have these types of conversations and make these social assessments. I think we should be doing psycho-social assessments — probing depression, anger, emotional conflict, all these are signs for intervention.

This child probably had models of settling arguments that were violent. I don’t think it’s too early to begin asking children how they would resolve conflict.

The guidelines also calls on doctors to lobby for laws restricting handgun ownership. Is that an appropriate role for a pediatrician?

There’s a lot of debate. The pediatric community doesn’t have one voice on that. That was a tough one. These recommendations are just that. We don’t speak for all members of the academy. Pediatricians do have a role. Sometimes, it’s an individual decision about how to act that role out.

It was a reaction to the statistics and the appalling realization that access to these things presents a vulnerability. How do you see medical schools training doctors to handle youth violence?

I think there’s a responsibility for medical schools to be reality-based. The fact is the communities they serve have changed. A lot of people feel they have to have a gun to defend themselves. Things have really changed.

This is what communities are facing. It has a great impact on the health of children and families. We can’t care about children without caring about the environment in which these children live.

The policy calls on doctors to do so much more for children, but in these times of managed care it seems pediatricians are spending less time with patients.

Physicians have to ask some of these questions. They don’t have to be the ones to ask all of them. But doctors carry so much weight in the public’s eye. Survey after survey shows physicians are people who are trusted by society. If physicians ask these questions, it creates an environment that says it’s OK to talk about these things.

Originally published on Mar 19 2000

tumblr visitor stats

Please note: Common Sense and its endorsing organizations do not necessarily endorse all content stemming from the links provided in this page.  All resources in these web pages are provided for information purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. Advice and opinions on mental health and other medical issues should be obtained through consultation with a licensed and trained professional.

Next stop:
Web Resources...

Entry Hall Family Room Study Kitchen
Donation Welcome Web Resources Bulletin Board
About Us News
Take Action /tour.asp Fact File Parent Quiz
State Info Family Stories

Safety Tips  |  Take Action  |  News  |  Resources  |  Facts  |  About Us

Email a friend about this website.
© 1999-2007, Common Sense about Kids and Guns, All Rights Reserved.
For reprint permission, contact us.