Report Decision-Making Patterns Among Mandated Child Abuse Reporters

by Gail L. Zellman

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The goal of this investigation was to examine whether reporting decisions could be described by a coherent process that was consistent across incidents of suspected abuse. Using case vignettes imbedded in a national mail survey of mandated reporters, the author examined the relationship between a series of judgments about the cases described in the vignettes and reporting intentions. These judgments included seriousness of the incident; whether the incident should be labeled "abuse" or "neglect"; whether the law would require a report; and whether the child and, separately, the rest of the family, would benefit from a report. These five abuse-relevant judgments were strongly related to each other and together accounted for a substantial amount of the variance in reporting intentions. The law's demands most closely related to reporting intentions and benefits of reports were least closely related. Varimax rotation of a factor analysis revealed two factors: The first included seriousness, the abuse label, and the law's requirements, along with reporting intentions. The two benefit judgments loaded on the second factor. There were small differences in reporting judgments and patterns as a function of type of abuse. The implications of these findings for mandated reporter behavior are discussed.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

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