Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Patricia N. Anderson


Despite being mandated reporters by law, preschool teachers often fail to report suspicion of child abuse or neglect. Although research has been conducted regarding reasons why teachers do not report, no study has yet examined preschool teachers' thinking as decisions are being made. Therefore, the purpose of the study was to examine the in-the-moment decision-making process of preschool teachers to report or not report cases of suspected child abuse or neglect. Three research questions guided this exploration of teachers' responses to cases of possible child abuse or neglect, the reasons teachers give for their responses, and their confidence in the correctness of their decisions to report or not to report child abuse or neglect. The conceptual framework for this study was the ethical decision-making model of Meneghetti and Seel. The research was a phenomenological study using the think aloud protocol of van Someren, Barnard, and Sandberg. Three scenarios of possible child abuse cases were used as the basis for the face-to-face interviews in which 6 lead preschool teachers described their thought processes. The purposeful sample comprised 6 lead teachers in a major city in the United States with children aged 2 through 5. A thematic analysis method and coding strategy were used to answer the research questions. The findings in this study were consistent with the literature in that most of the teachers did not elect to report their suspicion of child abuse or neglect, but were inhibited by lack of clear understanding of what constitutes abuse and neglect, and by a desire for more information. This study contributes to positive social change by indicating a need for more training of preschool teachers in their mandated reporter role, which can result in more confident decision making and greater success in protecting young children.

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