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An Experimental Study of Implicit Racial Bias in Recognition of Child Abuse

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Objectives: We evaluated whether implicit racial bias influences pediatricians' suspicion of child abuse. Methods: Child abuse experts developed 9 injury vignettes. Pediatricians (N = 342) were randomly assigned one of 2 versions to rate for suspicion of abuse, with the child's race in each vignette varying between white and black. Data were collected online and anonymously. Results: There were no statistically significant differences in suspicion for an abuse-related injury based on the race of the child. We adjusted for pediatrician race/ethnicity, years since graduation, location, and gender and did not find race effects. Conclusions: We demonstrated an experimental approach to study the influence of implicit racial bias on recognition of child abuse. Though we failed to find an effect, it is too early to conclude that none exists. The relationship among human cognition, behavior, and healthcare disparities is complex. Studies are needed that incorporate diverse approaches, clinical contexts and scenarios, patient and physician characteristics, and validated measures if we are to understand how it might be used to reduce healthcare disparities.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Associate Professor, Albert Einstein College of Medicine Yeshiva University, Maimonides Medical Center, Department of Pediatrics, Brooklyn, NY;, Email: [email protected] 2: Assistant Professor, Albert Einstein College of Medicine Yeshiva University, Maimonides Medical Center, Department of Pediatrics, Brooklyn, NY 3: President, Upstate Medical University, State University of New York, Syracuse, NY

Publication date: 2017-05-01

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  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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