Teachers’ Responses to Child Maltreatment

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Glouchkow, A., Weegar, K., & Romano, E. (2023). Teachers’ Responses to Child Maltreatment. Journal of Child and Adolescent Trauma, 16(1), 95–108. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40653-022-00473-2 



Teachers play an important role in detecting and reporting child maltreatment by virtue of their extensive contact with children. Current research, while limited, shows a tendency among teachers to under-detect and under-report various forms of child abuse and neglect. Methods: Using data from a pilot evaluation of child maltreatment training for teachers, we examined teachers’ self-reported behaviours for different forms of maltreatment. Participants included 45 experienced teachers from a large urban centre in the province of Ontario (Canada) who rated their likelihood of, and rationale for, detecting and reporting maltreatment based on four case vignettes.


Accuracy rates for detection and reporting were highest for sexual abuse (95% and 93%), followed by neglect (87% and 75%), emotional abuse (86% and 70%), and physical abuse (58% and 27%). Differences in detection and reporting rates were only significant between physical abuse and other maltreatment types (sexual abuse and neglect for detection; sexual abuse, neglect, and emotional abuse for reporting), with accurate detection and reporting rates being significantly lower for physical abuse. Teachers stated that the physical abuse vignette lacked convincing evidence of child maltreatment. Further, many teachers indicated that additional information was needed to determine whether the vignette represented physical abuse and, as such, was reportable.


Our findings suggest the need for more targeted interventions to improve teachers’ decision-making with potential child maltreatment scenarios, especially for physical abuse, so that children who are experiencing maltreatment may be more accurately detected and reported to child protection.