How Childcare Providers Interpret ‘Reasonable Suspicion’ of Child Abuse

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12 Scopus citations


Background: Childcare providers are often “first responders” for suspected child abuse, and how they understand the concept of “reasonable suspicion” will influence their decisions regarding which warning signs warrant reporting. Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate how childcare providers interpret the threshold for reporting suspected abuse, and to consider the implications of these findings for professional training and development. Method: A convenience sample of 355 childcare providers completed the Reasonable Suspicion of Child Abuse survey to quantify what likelihood of child abuse constitutes “reasonable suspicion.” Responses were examined for internal consistency, evidence of a group standard, and associations with professional and personal demographics. Results: On a Rank Order Scale, responses for what constitutes “reasonable suspicion” ranged from requiring that abuse be “the” most likely cause (8 %) of an injury, to the second most likely (9 %), third (18 %), fourth (18 %), to even the seventh (8 %) or eighth (5 %) most likely cause of an injury. On a numerical probability scale, 21 % of respondents indicated that “abuse” would need to be ≥83 % likely before reasonable suspicion existed; 40 % stated that a likelihood between 53–82 % was needed; 27 % identified the necessary likelihood between 33–52 %; and 12 % set a threshold between 1–32 %. Conclusions: The present finding that no consensus exists for interpreting “reasonable suspicion” suggests that a broadly accepted interpretive framework is needed in order to help prepare childcare providers to know when to report suspected abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)875-891
Number of pages17
JournalChild and Youth Care Forum
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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