Date of Award

2020

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Social Work

Abstract

The trafficking of children for commercial sexual exploitation is a gross violation of human rights and a global, public health issue that is rapidly growing and prevalent. Due to the clandestine nature of this crime and the general lack of public knowledge about it, identifying and protecting victims of child sex trafficking (CST) is fraught with challenges. Therefore, it is imperative that healthcare professionals - often the only professionals with whom CST victims come in contact while in captivity - are properly educated and trained on this topic. A literature review reveals there is little knowledge about pediatricians' education and training on identifying and caring for trafficked children. The purpose of this quantitative, exploratory study was to understand if and how well pediatricians in the U.S. are educated/trained on the topic of CST; and the relationship between a pediatrician's education/training and their knowledge of, comfort with and self-perceived barriers in identifying, assessing, treating and reporting a victim of child sex trafficking, leading to specific recommendations for educating and training of pediatricians in the U.S. A survey was distributed to pediatricians across the U.S. with the help of the American Academy of Pediatrics. A total of 127 pediatricians responded. The main findings are as follows: (a) 60% of participants did not receive any education or training on the topic of CST, while about 40% reported only having "some" during medical school and residency; (b) nearly 70% of our respondents felt only "slightly" or "not at all" knowledgeable about various aspects of care for a victim of CST and most cited their "lack of training" as a barrier to identifying and treating CST victims, underscoring the great need to increase physician education in order to help this CST victims. More education was related with more comfort in assessing and caring for trafficking victims. A vast majority (over 70%) of our study's participants desired more education and training on CST.

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