Screening for Intimate Partner Violence, Elder Abuse, and Abuse of Vulnerable Adults: Evidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force

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Intimate partner violence (IPV), elder abuse, and abuse of vulnerable adults are common and result in adverse health outcomes.


To review the evidence on screening and interventions for IPV, elder abuse, and abuse of vulnerable adults to inform the US Preventive Services Task Force.

Data Sources

MEDLINE, Cochrane Library, EMBASE, and trial registries through October 4, 2017; references; experts; literature surveillance through August 1, 2018.

Study Selection

English-language randomized clinical trials (RCTs), studies evaluating test accuracy, and cohort studies with a concurrent control group assessing harms.

Data Extraction and Synthesis

Dual review of titles and abstracts, full-text articles, and study quality; qualitative synthesis of findings. Data were not pooled, primarily because of heterogeneity of populations, interventions, and outcomes.

Main Outcomes and Measures

Abuse or neglect, morbidity caused by abuse, test accuracy, and harms.


Thirty studies were included (N = 14 959). Three RCTs (n = 3759) compared IPV screening with no screening; none found significant improvements in outcomes (eg, IPV or quality of life) over 3 to 18 months and 2 (n = 935) reported no harms of screening. Nine studies assessed tools to detect any past-year or current IPV in women; for past-year IPV (5 studies [n = 6331]), sensitivity of 5 tools ranged from 65% to 87% and specificity ranged from 80% to 95%. The accuracy of 5 tools (4 studies [n = 1795]) for detecting current abuse varied widely; sensitivity ranged from 46% to 94% and specificity ranged from 38% to 95%. Eleven RCTs (n = 6740) evaluated interventions for women with screen-detected IPV. Two enrolling pregnant women (n = 575) found significantly less IPV among women in the intervention group: 1 home visiting intervention (standardized mean difference [SMD], −0.34 [95% CI, −0.59 to −0.08]) and 1 behavioral counseling intervention for multiple risks (IPV, smoking, depression, tobacco exposure) (SMD, −0.40 [95% CI, −0.68 to −0.12]). No studies evaluated screening or interventions for elder abuse or abuse of vulnerable adults. One study assessing a screening tool for elder abuse had poor accuracy (sensitivity, 46% and specificity, 73% for detecting physical or verbal abuse).

Conclusions and Relevance

Although available screening tools may reasonably identify women experiencing IPV, trials of IPV screening in adult women did not show a reduction in IPV or improvement in quality of life over 3 to 18 months. Limited evidence suggested that home visiting and behavioral counseling interventions that address multiple risk factors may lead to reduced IPV among pregnant or postpartum women. No studies assessed screening or treatment for elder abuse and abuse of vulnerable adults.

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