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A decision making model of child abuse reporting Beck, Kirk A.

Abstract

This study applied Ethnographic Decision Tree Modeling (Gladwin, 1989) to the field of child abuse reporting to investigate the factors that influence decisions to report possible child abuse. Participants were licensed psychologists in the lower mainland of British Columbia. Using ethnographic interviews, participants were asked to discuss a recent case in which they reported possible child abuse and the factors that were influential in their decision making. Based on the data from 34 cases, six factors were identified: (1) Were there any signs of or risk factors for child abuse or neglect? (2) Did the signs or risk factors meet your threshold to report as you understand the law? (3) Was there some other value to report other than a legal one? (4) Were you concerned that reporting would cause harm? (5) Were you able to minimize the harm that would result from reporting? and (6) Did the reasons to report outweigh the reasons to not report? These six factors were presented in a decision tree to illustrate the relationship between factors and decision outcome. This preliminary group model was then tested using the case experiences of a separate yet similar group of registered psychologists in British Columbia. Results found that the preliminary model accurately predicted the reporting outcome of 93% (33 of 36) of the cases in the new sample. Errors in the model were identified, and suggestions were made to improve its predictive ability. The results are evaluated in light of the decision tree produced. Implications for theory building, naturalistic inquiry, clinical practice, policy, and future research are discussed.

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