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Soc. Sci. 2014, 3(3), 460-482; doi:10.3390/socsci3030460
Article

Mandatory Reporting Laws and Identification of Child Abuse and Neglect: Consideration of Differential Maltreatment Types, and a Cross-Jurisdictional Analysis of Child Sexual Abuse Reports

Received: 2 July 2014; in revised form: 12 July 2014 / Accepted: 16 July 2014 / Published: 20 August 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary Developments in Child Protection)
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Abstract: Mandatory reporting laws have been created in many jurisdictions as a way of identifying cases of severe child maltreatment on the basis that cases will otherwise remain hidden. These laws usually apply to all four maltreatment types. Other jurisdictions have narrower approaches supplemented by differential response systems, and others still have chosen not to enact mandatory reporting laws for any type of maltreatment. In scholarly research and normative debates about mandatory reporting laws and their effects, the four major forms of child maltreatment—physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect—are often grouped together as if they are homogenous in nature, cause, and consequence. Yet, the heterogeneity of maltreatment types, and different reporting practices regarding them, must be acknowledged and explored when considering what legal and policy frameworks are best suited to identify and respond to cases. A related question which is often conjectured upon but seldom empirically explored, is whether reporting laws make a difference in case identification. This article first considers different types of child abuse and neglect, before exploring the nature and operation of mandatory reporting laws in different contexts. It then posits a differentiation thesis, arguing that different patterns of reporting between both reporter groups and maltreatment types must be acknowledged and analysed, and should inform discussions and assessments of optimal approaches in law, policy and practice. Finally, to contribute to the evidence base required to inform discussion, this article conducts an empirical cross-jurisdictional comparison of the reporting and identification of child sexual abuse in jurisdictions with and without mandatory reporting, and concludes that mandatory reporting laws appear to be associated with better case identification.
Keywords: child abuse and neglect; heterogeneity; mandatory reporting laws; differential response; child sexual abuse; empirical cross-jurisdictional analysis; effect of mandatory reporting on case identification child abuse and neglect; heterogeneity; mandatory reporting laws; differential response; child sexual abuse; empirical cross-jurisdictional analysis; effect of mandatory reporting on case identification
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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MDPI and ACS Style

Mathews, B. Mandatory Reporting Laws and Identification of Child Abuse and Neglect: Consideration of Differential Maltreatment Types, and a Cross-Jurisdictional Analysis of Child Sexual Abuse Reports. Soc. Sci. 2014, 3, 460-482.

AMA Style

Mathews B. Mandatory Reporting Laws and Identification of Child Abuse and Neglect: Consideration of Differential Maltreatment Types, and a Cross-Jurisdictional Analysis of Child Sexual Abuse Reports. Social Sciences. 2014; 3(3):460-482.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Mathews, Ben. 2014. "Mandatory Reporting Laws and Identification of Child Abuse and Neglect: Consideration of Differential Maltreatment Types, and a Cross-Jurisdictional Analysis of Child Sexual Abuse Reports." Soc. Sci. 3, no. 3: 460-482.

Soc. Sci. EISSN 2076-0760 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert