Is mandatory reporting of child abuse an appropriate child protection tool for adolescents?
Lawson, Deborah Karen
Abstract:This thesis examines the question of whether mandatory reporting of child abuse is an appropriate child protection tool for adolescents. It focuses on adolescents in particular because they are differentiated in analogous legal frameworks for decision-making for children, primarily because of their emerging competence and increasing recognition of the need to respect their autonomy rights. The thesis shows that there are also salient practical reasons for distinguishing adolescents from younger children in child abuse reporting legislation, policy and practice.The thesis traces the history of the mandatory reporting debate in New Zealand by analysing submissions to select committees and parliamentary debates on the issue. It also draws upon prominent children's rights theories to provide a theoretical framework against which the suitability of mandatory reporting for adolescents can be judged.The thesis describes and discusses the aims, methods and results of two major empirical studies undertaken with key stakeholders in the child protection area. The first study involved, a survey of more than 450 secondary school students to assess the impact that mandatory reporting legislation might have on whether they disclosed to school staff or attended school if they had been abused. The second study involved a nationwide survey of more than 350 school teachers, counsellors and principals regarding their child abuse reporting knowledge, attitudes and behaviour.The thesis concludes that mandatory reporting of child abuse is not an appropriate child protection tool for adolescents. Mandatory reporting legislation fails to respect adolescents' autonomy rights and may also deter them from disclosing abuse or attending school if they have been abused, which may put them at greater risk.
Advisor: Henaghan, Mark; Peart, Nicola; Niven, Brian
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Law
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis
xx, 484 leaves :forms ; 30 cm. Includes bibliographical references. "May 2009". University of Otago department: Law