• Presentation

Mandatory Reporting of Child Maltreatment: A Technique for Risk Assessment and Data Review


Weger, S. A., Hendershott, A. E., & Kilpatrick, G. L. (2010, May). Mandatory Reporting of Child Maltreatment: A Technique for Risk Assessment and Data Review. Presented at AAPOR 2010, .


In surveys where questionnaire responses may indicate potential child abuse or neglect, it is imperative that the project team develop guidelines and processes to determine whether a report should be made to appropriate authorities. It is of particular importance that the decision to report or not report is weighed against the risk that could be created by an erroneous report. To address and mitigate the risk of filing an erroneous report of abuse or neglect, we developed a mandatory reporting protocol that minimizes the likelihood of such an occurrence. The protocol takes into account the obligation to protect the confidentiality of participants and the obligation to report cases that meet the threshold set for reporting a possible case of abuse or neglect.

The aim of this methodological brief is to outline the procedures used in a study where parents and minor children were asked questions regarding victimization and perpetration of physical and sexual abuse, as well as neglect. In a recent longitudinal study conducted by RTI International, such data were collected, and the study team utilized a unique, multifaceted approach to determine if situations described by respondents – both parents and minor children – were indicative of offenses that may require a formal report to authorities. Automated email reports drawing upon respondent data were used in conjunction with a “decision tree” that defined the parameters for survey item responses to determine whether a case review was required. However, understanding the nuances of individual cases cannot always be achieved by relying wholly on programming; a human element was also integrated in this process in the form of group review and discussion of potentially reportable cases. This methodological brief will describe the mandatory reporting protocol in an effort to share the knowledge and lessons learned throughout data collection on a complex project.