Pediatrician or Family Doctor? How to Decide

Both pediatricians and family doctors are qualified to take care of your child, however, pediatricians are specialists in children.  So what is the right decisions for you and your family?

Consider the needs the entire family, but give special consideration to the age and health of your child or children. Your finances, plans for the future and location all play a part, but it is important to find someone you feel comfortable with and can trust.


Pediatricians are primary care doctors specializing in the physical, mental and social health of children.  In addition to 4 years of medical school, they will spend 3 years as a medical resident in pediatrics.

Typically, they will see your child multiple times per year up until the age of 2, after that, the will usually see your child for annual physicals and sick visits.  To be board certified, a pediatrician has to pass an exam from the American Board of Pediatrics and retake the exam every 7 years.

Family doctors are also primary care doctors; however, they do their residency in a variety of fields in addition to pediatricians, including internal medicine and gynecology.

What to Consider About Pediatricians

Because their focus in on children, they may be better at talking to kids at their level and their parents about sensitive issues. Pediatric will often know a child’s history from infancy up until becoming an adult.  This can help in recognizing changes your child may be going through.

What to Consider About Family Doctors

One of the benefits of a family doctor is they can treat the whole family.  When you and your child are both sick, you can go in to see them together.

One drawback of a family doctor is they are not spending as much time as a pediatrician does caring for children.  On average, family physicians say they spend around 10% of their time treating children.

Special Health Needs

For children with special needs including preemies, children with birth defects, or other health concerns, a pediatrician may be a better choice.  Some may even need a pediatric specialist such as a pediatric cardiologist if they have a heart condition.


When making a choice, take into consideration location, office hours, availability after hours for questions.  Consider that small children are likely to need to see a doctor more often than older children.

Your Insurance Plan

Check with your insurance provider to see if there is a difference in what is covered for each type of doctor.  Make sure the specific

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