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Child Abuse Negl. 1999 Jun;23(6):539-48.

Worker judgements of seriousness about and reporting of suspected child maltreatment.

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Department of Social Sciences, York College, City University of New York, Jamaica 11451, USA.



This study examined the relationship between judgements about the seriousness of incidents of suspected maltreatment and the reporting of those incidents.


Eighty-six graduate social work students were given 12 vignettes depicting problematic parental behaviors. Students were asked to rate each vignette according to how serious they perceived the parental behavior to be with "1" being "not serious" and "7" being "very serious." Students were also asked to indicate whether or not they would report the incident to child protective services. Data were analyzed by case and by individual.


All 12 vignettes were serious with mean incident ratings ranging from a low of 6.0 to a high of 6.9. However, not all incidents were reported with similar frequency. Only incidents that were collectively very serious were reported by nearly all respondents (Spearman rank order correlation coefficient = .94). Among worker characteristics, the worker's judgement of seriousness was the only predictor of reporting.


The results suggest that beginning human service workers are unsure of their legal responsibility to report suspected maltreatment. The results also point to a need for closer collaboration between mandated reporters and child protective services.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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