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A mixed methodology would allow combining the benefits of quantitative and qualitative approaches, thus enhancing the depth and scope of the study. For example, a quantitative research approach allows targeting a broader population of participants, thus collecting data about the overall trends and observing patterns evident in that population (Lampard & Pole, 2015). However, a qualitative method would allow determining individual participants’ attitudes to reporting, thus adding to the exploration of potential barriers and predictors of reporting decisions (Bellotti, 2014). By using a combination of methods, it would be possible to ensure a comprehensive approach to topic exploration and answer all of the proposed research questions. The proposed study is also a one-time research, as it will be assessing current attitudes to reporting. The study will also be non-experimental and will use random recruitment methods, with both telephone interviews and web questionnaires for data collection.
The present research aims to address both the general population and social workers to examine the overall attitudes to the reporting of child maltreatment. Social workers, teachers, nurses, and people in certain other professions are required by law to report child maltreatment, which has a significant impact on their reporting decisions (Feng, Chen, Fetzer, Fend, & Lin, 2012). Although mandatory reporters could face legal penalties in case of failure to report child maltreatment, there are still particular challenges that influence their decisions to report, such as ethical dilemmas, inadequate evidence, or perceived problems with child protection services (Zellman, 1990).
The factors affecting reporting decisions of people who are not required to report child maltreatment, however, would be different. For example, Raissian, Dierkhising, Geiger, and Schelbe (2014) found that people’s reporting decisions could be influenced by the age and gender of the child involved, as well as by the type of suspected abuse: “allegations of sexual abuse among school-age children and adolescents, particularly among girls, were more likely to result in CPS involvement” (p. 3). Overall, examining people from both populations would help to obtain an insight into factors affecting both mandatory and voluntary reporting, thus enhancing the depth of the study.
In addition, it would be important to address people who live in communities with high rates of child maltreatment. According to Eckenrode, Smith, McCarthy, and Dineen (2014), the incidence of child maltreatment is highly linked to income inequality, with poorer counties and states presenting with higher rates of child maltreatment. Thus, approaching respondents who live in relatively low-income counties would be preferable.
Probability sampling should be applied where possible, as it enhances the reliability of results and allows to generalize findings to other populations (Lampard & Pole, 2015). However, due to the large size and significant degree of variation in the proposed sample, it would be useful to consider convenience sampling for the recruitment of social workers, teachers, and other mandatory reporters. Convenience sampling would allow ensuring that the participants are easy to access, which would help in increasing the sample size (Lampard & Pole, 2015).
Therefore, the sampling procedure will fall into two separate lines of action. First, mandatory reporters would be recruited. Apart from a profession that ensures mandatory reporting, it will also be required that the participants from this group are currently working in the profession. Therefore, retirement or different current job would be the key exclusion criteria for the sample. Participants could be recruited through direct approach (phone or email), as well as study announcements or advertisements in local hospitals or schools. Non-mandatory reporters, on the other hand, could be recruited by placing study advertisements in supermarkets or other public places, as this would allow obtaining a diverse sample of participants. Random sampling will be used to choose the required number of participants from those who responded to the advertisement.
Data Collection Procedures
Each participant will be invited to fill in an online questionnaire, which will take 15-20 minutes to complete. The questionnaire will include multiple-choice questions or statements graded by the Likert scale. There will be no incentive for the completion of the online survey; however, a smaller sample of randomly chosen participants will also be invited to participate in the interview, for which they will receive a modest cash reward. During the interview, the participants will be asked to elaborate on their responses to the questionnaire and to share any stories where they were a witness to child maltreatment.
Data Collection Instruments
The questionnaire will be the key instrument of data collection, as it will address all of the topics discussed in the study, including reporting behavior, exposure to child maltreatment, and factors influencing reporting decisions. The results will be entirely anonymous, using participant ID numbers instead of their names or contact details. The interviews will be semi-structured and confidential and will focus on the participants’ past experiences and attitudes to voluntary or mandatory reporting. On the whole, both instruments of data collection would help to explore the topic and to respond to the identified research questions.
The research will focus on several key variables. First of all, the overall rate of reporting would allow determining if child maltreatment is underreported or overreported. Secondly, the participant’s exposure to child maltreatment will be used as an independent variable that could possibly explain reporting decisions. Finally, participant’s general attitudes to mandatory and voluntary reporting will be explored.
Bellotti, E. (2014). Qualitative networks: Mixed methods in sociological research. Abingdon-on-Thames, England: Routledge.
Eckenrode, J., Smith, E. G., McCarthy, M. E., & Dineen, M. (2014). Income inequality and child maltreatment in the United States. Pediatrics, 133(3), 454-461.
Feng, J. Y., Chen, Y. W., Fetzer, S., Feng, M. C., & Lin, C. L. (2012). Ethical and legal challenges of mandated child abuse reporters. Children and Youth Services Review, 34(1), 276-280.
Lampard, R., & Pole, C. (2015). Practical social investigation: Qualitative and quantitative methods in social research. Abingdon-on-Thames, England: Routledge.
Raissian, K. M., Dierkhising, C. B., Geiger, J. M., & Schelbe, L. (2014). Child maltreatment reporting patterns and predictors of substantiation: Comparing adolescents and younger children. Child Maltreatment, 19(1), 3-16.
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Zellman, G. L. (1990). Child abuse reporting and failure to report among mandated reporters: Prevalence, incidence, and reasons. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 5(1), 3-22.