Ethical and legal challenges of mandated child abuse reporters

Jui Ying Feng, Yi Wen Chen, Susan Fetzer, Ming Chu Feng, Chiao Li Lin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Mandated reporters inconsistently report child abuse cases. Ethical dilemmas and legal challenges to reporting arise creating barriers to assist abused children and their families. Purpose: The purpose of this study was to describe professionals' ethical dilemmas and legal challenges to reporting child abuse. Method: A qualitative study was conducted to explore the ethical and legal challenges of mandated reporters when reporting child abuse. Individual interviews between 60 and 100. min were conducted with a purposive sample of 18 mandated reporters including physicians, nurses, social workers, and teachers. Grounded theory methodology was used to develop categorical themes that reflected mandated reporters' experiences and challenges. Result: Three themes emerged from the data: conflicts, time, and law as refuge. Professionals described challenges in balancing autonomy, beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice. There was no best solution to do no harm. The associated stigma and pressure of cultural and secular norms of child abuse inhibit professionals' action based on legal and ethical requirements. The theme of time included limited time and an uncertain future. The law provides security and refuge for professionals to find a solution to the challenges of reporting child abuse. Conclusion: The ethical and legal challenges of reporting child abuse create complex dilemmas for mandated reporters. Ethical principles are in constant opposition when negotiating rights of children and rights of parents. Supportive structures and education are needed to assist professionals in meeting their reporting obligation and solving their dilemmas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)276-280
Number of pages5
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Jan

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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