Universal Mandatory Reporting Policies and the Odds of Identifying Child Physical Abuse

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To examine the relationships between universal mandatory reporting (UMR), child physical abuse reporting, and the moderating effect of UMR on physical abuse report outcomes by report source.


We used a national data set of 204 414 children reported for physical abuse in 2013 to compare rates of total and confirmed reports by states or territories with and without UMR. We estimated odds and predicted probabilities of confirming a physical abuse report made by professional versus nonprofessional reporters, accounting for the moderating effect of UMR and individual-level characteristics.


Rates of total and confirmed physical abuse reports did not differ by UMR status. Nonprofessionals were more likely to make reports in UMR states compared with states without UMR. Probability of making a confirmed report was significantly lower under UMR; this effect almost doubled for nonprofessionals compared with professional reporters.


Universal mandatory reporting may not be the answer for strengthening the protection of children victimized by physical abuse. Implementation of child protection policies must be exercised according to evidence to exert the fullest impact and benefit of these laws.

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