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Professionals' Attitudes and Accuracy on Child Abuse Reporting Decisions in New Zealand

NCJ Number
Journal of Interpersonal Violence Volume: 17 Issue: 3 Dated: March 2002 Pages: 320-342
Christina M. Rodriguez
Date Published
March 2002
23 pages
This study in New Zealand, which has no mandatory child abuse reporting laws, examined professionals' decisions to report suspicions of child abuse to child protective services.
The study involved 255 professionals in the fields of health, education, and mental health. This sample was derived from returned questionnaires sent to professionals in these three fields. Based on the responses received, the overall sample was predominantly female, ranging in age from 22 to 74, with considerable professional experience. In addition to obtaining demographic and other background information, participants were presented with 12 potential child abuse scenarios that were constructed from modifications of actual reported cases. These scenarios were presented in random order and involved sexual and physical abuse as well as neglect. Half of the scenarios were considered by child protective services to be reportable, and the other half had insufficient cause for investigation. Certainty ratings on reporting decisions and eight attitudes toward reporting were also obtained. Compared to the judgment of child protective services on the scenarios, the mental health professionals were less accurate in their reporting decisions than were teachers or doctors. Across occupations, those opposed to mandatory reporting were least accurate but most certain in their reporting decisions. Accuracy was lowest for child neglect and highest for sexual abuse cases. There was no relationship between age or experience and the accuracy, attitudes, or certainty of the respondents. Researchers should focus on whether more comprehensive training could improve accuracy and reporting behavior. 4 tables and 47 references