Parental Perspectives of Screening for Adverse Childhood Experiences in Pediatric Primary Care

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Introduction: Pediatricians recognize a need to mitigate the negative impact that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can have on health and development. However, ACEs screening and interventions in primary care pediatrics may be inhibited by concerns about parental perceptions. We assessed parent perspectives of screening for ACEs in the pediatric primary care setting, to understand their views on the potential impact of their ACEs on their parenting and to identify opportunities for pediatric anticipatory guidance. Method: We used purposive sampling to recruit parents of children <6 years receiving care at an urban, pediatric clinic. Semistructured questions guided 1:1 interviews that were later coded by multiple researchers to verify reliability. A thematic framework approach guided analysis and identified main themes and subthemes. Results: We reached thematic saturation after 15 parent interviews, which consistently revealed 3 interrelated themes. First, parents strongly supported ACEs screening as a bridge to needed services, and they recommended using a trauma-sensitive, person-centered approach in pediatric practices. Second, parents understood the intergenerational impact of ACEs and expressed a desire to break the cycle of adversity. Finally, parents saw their child’s pediatrician as a potential change-agent who could provide support to meet their parenting goals. Discussion: Parents want to discuss their ACEs and receive help and guidance from pediatricians. Furthermore, they perceive their child’s pediatrician as having an important role to play in meeting their parenting goals. It is important to ensure that pediatricians have the training, skills and familiarity with available resources to meet parental expectations.

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