General practice clinicians’ perspectives on involving and supporting children and adult perpetrators in families experiencing domestic violence and abuse

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Abstract

Background.

Government and professional guidance encourages general practice clinicians to identify and refer children who experience domestic violence and abuse (DVA) but there is scant understanding of how general practice clinicians currently work with DVA in families.

Objectives.

The study explored general practice clinicians’ practice with children and their parents experiencing DVA and reflected on the findings in the light of current research and policy guidelines.

Methods.

Semi-structured interviews with 54 clinicians (42 GPs and 12 practice nurses/nurse practitioners) were conducted across six sites in England. Data were analysed using current literature and emerging themes. Data presented here concern clinicians’ perspectives on engaging with family members when a parent discloses that she is experiencing DVA.

Results.

When a parent disclosed DVA, clinicians were more likely to consider talking to abusive fathers than talking to children about the abuse. Perspectives varied according to whether consultation opportunities arose, risks, consent and confidentiality. Perceptions of ‘patienthood’, relationships and competence shaped clinicians’ engagement. Perpetrators were seen as competent informers and active service users, with potential for accepting advice and support. Clinicians were more hesitant in talking with children. Where this was considered, children tended to be seen as passive informants, only two GPs described direct and ongoing consultations with children and providing them with access to support.

Conclusion.

Clinicians appear more inclined to engage directly with abusive fathers than children experiencing DVA. Clinician skills and confidence to talk directly with children experiencing DVA, in child sensitive ways, should be developed through appropriate training.

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