UE Graduate and Professor Publish Research on Predictors of Teachers' Intentions to Report Suspected Child Abuse

Posted: Tuesday, September 17, 2019

UE graduate Tess Hupe, Class of 2018, and Dr. Margaret Stevenson, UE associate professor of psychology, recently published research in the Journal of Child Custody titled "Teachers’ Intentions to Report Suspected Child Abuse: The Influence of Compassion Fatigue." This research was previously awarded an Outstanding Student Paper Award from Division 41 of the American Psychological Association, the American Psychology and Law Society (AP-LS), and was ranked in the top 20 papers presented at the 2018 AP-LS conference.

Their research reflects one of the few studies to explore teachers’ and school administrators’ (N = 299) knowledge of abuse reporting policy and their self-reported intentions to report hypothetical instances of suspected child abuse – research questions with relevance to policy given that teachers are legally mandated to report suspected child abuse. Moreover, the authors also explored the relationship between compassion fatigue (i.e., job burnout and secondary traumatic stress stemming from vicarious exposure to client trauma) and teachers’ attitudes toward reporting suspected child abuse. They found that a significant minority of teachers indicated that they would not report suspected child abuse – a finding that held even after eliminating the 10.3% of teachers who were unaware of policy requiring teachers to report suspected child abuse. Supporting hypotheses, as compassion fatigue increased, negative attitudes toward child abuse reporting significantly increased. Additionally, increased compassion fatigue was significantly associated with increased job efficacy cynicism, psychological detachment from students, and diminished knowledge about reporting child abuse – all factors that statistically explained the relationship between compassion fatigue and negative attitudes toward reporting suspected abuse. As the results of their research suggest, teacher compassion fatigue not only reflects the suffering of teachers, but it can also indirectly contribute to lack of intervention for child victims of abuse, in turn, perpetuating child suffering.
The full paper is available online.

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