Psychology, Department of


Document Type


Date of this Version

September 1997


Published in Journal of Family Violence, 12:3 (September 1997), pp. 313-332. Copyright © 1997 Plenum Publishing Corporation/Kluwer/Springer Verlag BV. Used by permission. “The original publication is available at”


All 50 states have laws requiring mental health and other professionals to report suspected maltreatment. Unfortunately, many professionals who are mandated to report suspicions of child maltreatment often fail to recognize potential maltreatment or fail to report their suspicions. The present study examines several factors that may influence identification and reporting of child maltreatment. Subjects were licensed psychologists in the Midwest and certified Masters social workers in Nebraska. Child maltreatment included neglect, physical abuse, psychological maltreatment, and sexual abuse. Characteristics associated with the family or “case” (race, socioeconomic status of family, age of victim, type of maltreatment) were manipulated and presented in hypothetical case vignettes. Characteristics of the professional (e.g., training and experience with identification and reporting, personal history of maltreatment and violence) were also investigated. Ratings of the severity of the potential maltreatment situation, suspiciousness that maltreatment is occurring, and likelihood of reporting maltreatment were completed after reading each case vignette. The results indicate that a variety of case and professional factors may influence identification and reporting of maltreatment. Implications for training professionals and further research are discussed.