BACKGROUND: There are conflicting findings on the influence of gender on responding to partner abuse.
OBJECTIVES: We aimed to explore gender differences in family doctors' views, attitudes, experiences and practices regarding intimate partner abuse against women.
METHODS: We used the focus-group method with a stratified, randomized sample of family physicians. Three male and three female groups took part. Two independent researchers analysed the transcripts of the discussions.
RESULTS: There were differences between male and female groups in discussing partner abuse, although similarities were also noted. Major contrasts in opinions were seen in (i) the role of sexuality: part of the male family doctors stated that denial of sexual relationships by a spouse was a contributing and eliciting factor to male aggression, whereas female doctors emphasized unanimously the humiliation of sexual coercion and the danger of opposing. (ii) Children as witnesses: this issue was discussed in female groups only, (iii) female doctors talked about emotional involvement with patients and male doctors about keeping distance, (iv) female doctors viewed leaving an abusive partner as a process whilst male doctors saw no progress, (v) experiences with abused patients: female doctors remembered more actual cases and (vi) practices in managing partner abuse differed between men and women.
CONCLUSION: These remarkable gender-related differences among doctors might affect care for abused women. Doctors should be aware of gender-related views, attitudes and practices that can be harmful to their patients.