Routine, single-item screening to identify abusive relationships in women

J. H. Wasson, A. M. Jette, J. Anderson, D. J. Johnson, E. C. Nelson, C. M. Kilo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Abusive relationships are associated with several demographic factors and many clinical problems in women. However, practices often do not screen for abuse. METHODS: This is a descriptive study of 1526 women aged 19 to 69 years who completed a health survey in 31 office practices. The 53-item survey included a question designed to screen for an abusive relationship. Our analysis compared self-reported measures of symptoms (N=13) and functional limitations (n=6) of women who had abusive relationships with those who did not. We also examined the utility of using a constellation of clinical problems to identify risk for abuse. RESULTS: Women in abusive relationships were more likely to be poor (37% vs 14%; P <.001) and young (87% were younger than 51 years versus 69% of those who were not in such relationships; P <.001). They had twice as many bothersome symptoms (3.1 vs 1.7; P <.001) and functional problems (1.6 vs 0.8; P <.001). Approximately 40% (36/89) of low-income women with emotional problems were at risk for abuse versus only 6% (64/1025) of women with adequate financial resources and no emotional problems. However, because so many women were at low risk, almost twice as many in this group (n=64) reported abusive relationships than in the high-risk group (n=36). CONCLUSIONS: Women in abusive relationships have many symptoms and functional limitations. However, symptoms and clinical problems provide insufficient clues for abuse. It is better just to ask. A single-item screening question appears adequate for this purpose.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1017-1022
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Family Practice
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2000


  • Domestic violence
  • Screening abuse [non-MESH]
  • Spouse abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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