Negative effects of child abuse reporting laws

After Kempe's (1962) pioneering article which identified Child Physical Abuse Syndrome was published, well-intentioned legislators of all fifty states passed child abuse reporting laws which mandated various professionals to report suspected or actual cases of abuse. Although these laws were enacted to protect children from abuse, the system empowered to investigate and adjudicate such cases has been severely criticized in both the social science and legal literature to the extent that serious concerns have been raised as to whether some children are hurt more from the report and ensuing intervention than they are from the abuse itself. This paper will endeavor to synthesize these two bodies of literature so that a more cohesive understanding of the child abuse reporting and intervention system may be achieved. First, the social science literature pertaining to intrafamilial sexual and physical abuse will be examined to provide a foundation by which the dynamics of the abuser, the family, .and the effects of abuse upon the victim will be understood. Next, an examination of the child abuse delivery system will be made in which investigative, prosecutorial, judicial, and foster care components will be explored. Where appropriate, this exploration will integrate relevant findings by other investigators from both the legal and social science literature. Finally, several suggestions will be offered so that more effective child abuse reporting may be made by mandated reporters, thereby minimizing or eliminating further trauma to victimized children.