Despite policy statements against routine circumcision of newborns by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology more than 10 years ago, there has been virtually no change in circumcision practices in the United States. In addition, controlled trials of programs to educate parents about the lack of medical indications for routine newborn circumcision have shown that parental education has little impact on the circumcision decision. We hypothesized that parents based their circumcision decision predominantly on social concerns rather than on medical ones. We prospectively surveyed parents of 124 newborns soon after they made the circumcision decision to learn their reasons for the decision. The strongest factor associated with the circumcision decision was whether or not the father was circumcised (P.0001). The survey also showed that concerns about the attitudes of peers and their sons' self concept in the future were prominent among parents deciding to circumcise. The circumcision decision in the United States is emerging as a cultural ritual rather than the result of medical misunderstanding among parents. In counseling parents making the circumcision decision, the health care provider should provide a knowledgeable and honest discussion of the medical aspects of circumcision. Until information is available that addresses parents' social concerns about circumcision, it is unreasonable to expect a significant change in circumcision customs in the United States.

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