The Process of Reporting Suspicions of Child Maltreatment for Teachers: A Grounded Theory Study

  • Author / Creator
    Vink, Katherine
  • Child maltreatment is widely considered a major public health and societal concern affecting numerous children worldwide (Burczycka & Conroy, 2018; Cyr, Michel, & Dumais, 2013; UNICEF, 2006). Due to their proximity to children, teachers have a legal responsibility to report their suspicions of child maltreatment (Department of Justice Canada, 2017b); however, the majority of suspected cases of child maltreatment go unreported by teachers (Gallagher-MacKay, 2014; Jaffe, Wolfe, & Campbell, 2011; Walsh & Jones, 2016). Given the detrimental impacts of maltreatment on children, developing a thorough understanding of teachers’ failure to report their suspicions is crucial. The purpose of this study was to develop a theory of the process of reporting suspicions of child exposure to domestic violence for teachers using grounded theory methodology, which later evolved to encompass child maltreatment more broadly. The participants were seven female and two male teachers who ranged in age from 26 to 65 years old (mean 40.8 years old), from diverse cultural, professional, and personal backgrounds. The data included individual interviews during which teachers discussed their experiences and perspectives related to reporting suspicions of child maltreatment. From an analysis of the data, I developed seven primary processes that comprise the overall grounded theory. The primary processes include: Wanting What is in the Student’s Best Interest, Developing Suspicion, Teachers’ Individual Contexts, Considering Teaching Context, Experiencing Uncertainty, Gathering Information, and Deciding Whether to Report. The processes are interrelated, and represent the largely uphill process of reporting suspicions of child maltreatment for teachers. Based on the current findings, recommendations for theory, research, and practice are discussed. Findings are discussed in light of the importance of re-conceptualizing mandatory reporting to understand it in terms of a process for teachers. Methodological and procedural challenges in mandatory reporting research are discussed, as well as the value of using qualitative approaches. Finally, implications for practice are discussed with recommendations for improvements in both the process of mandated reporting, as well as the teaching profession broadly, including the development and implementation of interventions pertaining to mandatory reporting training, reducing teacher stress, and improving workplace relationships.

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  • Graduation date
    Spring 2019
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
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