Teenagers' perceptions of personal safety and the role of the emergency health care provider

M. Denise Dowd*, James S. Seidel, Karen Sheehan, Barbara Barlow, Steven L. Bradbard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Study objective: We designed this study to determine the experiences, attitudes, and beliefs of teenagers regarding violence in their lives and to gain an understanding of the perceived role of the emergency health care professional. Methods: A qualitative study involving 10-person focus groups was conducted in 4 cities representing urban/low socioeconomic and suburban/high socioeconomic areas. Participants were 14 or 15 years of age and were recruited from local community centers. Moderators were matched by sex to the teenagers, and groups were segmented by race and sex. A semistructured guide was developed to help facilitate the discussion. All groups were audiotaped and videotaped, and the tapes were reviewed by the investigators for reoccurring themes. Results: A total of 140 adolescents (14 groups of 10) participated; one half were male. Urban teenagers expressed concerns about gangs, rape, and homicide; suburban teenagers were concerned about parental pressure and suicide. The teenagers expressed distrust of teachers, police officers, and doctors and felt safest with their parents. The emergency department was viewed as a confusing and frightening place, and participants believed that the role of the ED staff was to treat the patient's medical problem and not inquire or counsel about violence. Conclusion: All of the teenagers, regardless of socioeconomic status, were concerned about violence in their lives. All of the teenagers believed that the emergency department is not the place for patients to be counseled about safety and violence prevention. A better understanding of the problem of violence from the point of view of the teenager is important in refining an effective role for the emergency health care provider in adolescent violent injury prevention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)346-350
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of Emergency Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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