Date of Award

Fall 2009

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Education

First Advisor

Rebecca A. Maynard

Second Advisor

Peter Kuriloff

Third Advisor

Margaret E. Goertz

Abstract

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (1974) requires that states receiving U.S. federal funds directed at child abuse implement mandated reporting laws. As a result, all states have adopted legislation requiring teachers and other professionals who deal with children to report suspicions of child abuse. The federal mandate for such reporting laws assumes that teachers will have the capability to fulfill their role as mandated reporters. However, prior research suggests that educators do not always report their suspicions of child abuse to child protective services.

Using survey data from a sample of teachers trained by the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, this study investigated whether teachers are currently prepared for their role as mandated reporters. Prior research had found that mandated reporters vary in the level to which they comply with reporting policies. This study assessed the potential factors accounting for variations in teachers’ reporting behaviors.

Results from this study based on linear regression analysis and structural equation models confirmed that teachers do not always report their suspicions of child abuse and do not feel well prepared for their role as mandated reporters. Neither the factors articulated in the Integrated Model of Behavior (attitudes toward reporting abuse, self-efficacy beliefs, and social norms) nor the common elements addressed by education and training programs (knowledge of mandated reporting law, indicators of abuse, and reporting procedure) predicted teachers’ likelihood of reporting abuse. Exposure to information on mandated reporting or child abuse was related to increased knowledge of mandated reporting law and reporting procedures, but was not predictive of reporting of suspicions of child abuse. Having a school procedure for reporting abuse was predictive of likelihood of reporting physical and sexual abuse.

Findings from this study suggest that many teachers are not equipped for their role as mandated reporters. Yet, the findings also suggest that providing information about mandated reporting or child abuse is not sufficient for ensuring compliance with mandated reporting laws. Further experimentation in practice and additional research is needed to identify factors that promote the reporting of educators’ suspicions of child abuse to child protective services.

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