The aim of this study was to examine the reporting of suspected child abuse among Swedish general practitioners (GPs), and to investigate factors influencing them in their decision whether or not to report to child protective services (CPS).
A cross-sectional questionnaire study.
Primary health care centres in western Sweden.
177 GPs and GP trainees.
Demographic and educational background, education on child abuse, attitudes to reporting and CPS, previous experience of reporting suspected child abuse, and need of support.
Despite mandatory reporting, 20% of all physicians had at some point suspected but not reported child abuse. Main reasons for non-reporting were uncertainty about the suspicion and use of alternative strategies; for instance, referral to other health care providers or follow-up of the family by the treating physician. Only 30% of all physicians trusted CPS's methods of investigating and acting in cases of suspected child abuse, and 44% of all physicians would have wanted access to expert consultation. There were no differences in the failure to report suspected child abuse that could be attributed to GP characteristics. However, GPs educated abroad reported less frequently to CPS than GPs educated in Sweden.
This study showed that GPs see a need for support from experts and that the communication and cooperation between GPs and CPS needs to be improved. The low frequency of reporting indicates a need for continued education of GPs and for updated guidelines including practical advice on how to manage child abuse.