Reporting child abuse: pediatricians' experiences with the child protection system

Child Abuse Negl. 2000 Nov;24(11):1461-70. doi: 10.1016/s0145-2134(00)00199-x.


Objective: To explore pediatricians' reluctance to adhere to a legal mandate to report suspected child abuse and to compare their perspectives with those described in other jurisdictions in studies informed by different theories and employing diverse methodologies.

Method: An anonymous survey questionnaire was distributed to all pediatricians with admitting privileges to B.C. Children's Hospital which has a specialized Child Protection Services Unit. Physicians were asked about their own prior reporting experience and the influence of that experience upon future reporting decisions. They were also asked why they think other physicians might be reluctant to report (N = 26).

Results: While respondents were generally positive about their experience in filing a report to Child Protective Services, they were less positive about the dearth of feedback they received and they were undecided as to whether there was a positive outcome to their report. Their perceptions of the reasons colleagues might fail to report emphasized dissatisfaction with CPS, concern with loss of relationship with the child's parents, and a desire to avoid court proceedings.

Conclusions: Physicians' noncompliance or at least dissatisfaction with their child abuse reporting mandate is an international problem that can not be addressed by institutional protocols alone. Confusions about the limitations on confidentiality and information sharing might be better addressed through more shared training and opportunities for collaboration than by legal mandates and institutional protocols alone. Organizational theory and exchange theory might inform future research about the conditions under which collaboration is enhanced in the service of protecting children.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse*
  • Data Collection
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mandatory Reporting*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pediatrics*