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Child Abuse Negl. 1989;13(3):351-60.

An experimental study of gender and situation in the perception and reportage of child abuse.

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Department of Sociology, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.


This study examined the effects of gender, situation, and characteristics of witnesses in the perception and reportage of child abuse. Three scenarios representing themes of neglect, psychological, and physical abuse were evaluated by 144 nonprofessionals not mandated by law to report child abuse. The variables of gender and age of the child, gender of parent, and whether or not the abuse was precipitated by an act of the child were systematically manipulated to produce a 2 X 2 X 2 X 2 X 3 randomized design. Some demographic data on subjects were treated as covariates. Multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA) was performed on the data. No gender bias in subject's evaluations of victim or perpetrator was discovered. Female subjects viewed the scenarios more critically than did males. Younger subjects were less critical of mistreatment than were older subjects. Perception of the mistreatment as serious was not a good predictor of subsequent official reporting. The scenario involving physical abuse was rated as serious by 86.1% of the subjects, but only 39.5% of these subjects indicated that they would have reported it. Subjects indicated the highest rate of reporting for the neglect scenario which they rated as less serious than physical abuse. These results suggest that official reports are unreliable as an indicator of the incidence of abuse.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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