Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Sociology

Abstract

Christensen and Prout (2002) explain, "The task of the social scientist is to work for the right of people to have a voice and to be heard. In the case of children, `age' is perhaps one of the most dominant factors used to discriminate against children being heard and listened to" (p. 483). And in the case of children experiencing neglect or abuse, the opportunity for them to be heard is even more limited. This project analyzes data from the National Runway Safeline - one place where children's voice can be heard. NRS, established in 1971, offers confidential and anonymous services to youth and families nationwide. NRS serves as the federally designated communication system for runaway and homeless youth, providing services to adolescents, families, and those who care about them through toll-free hotline and online services, 1-800-RUNAWAY and www.1800RUNAWAY.org.

Like medical providers and teachers, NRS volunteers and staff are mandated reporters. When they hear of child abuse and have three pieces of information - knowledge of abuse, who the abuser is, and a location (and a telephone number is a location) - the law mandates that they make a report, so that an investigation into the allegation can begin, and possible action to protect the child or prosecute the offender can result. At NRS, because there is no caller ID, it is up to the youth whether he or she would like to disclose their location. 1-800-RUNAWAY is the only place known to this author, where a child can talk about abuse without worrying that it will be reported without their consent. This project investigates when children who mention abuse in their call choose to have it reported.

This study uses data from NRS call logs from January 2006 to December 2012. From the logs of all callers, this project extracted data on youth callers under the age of 18, who mention experiencing abuse (as opposed to adults or friends of youth calling about abuse). This resulted in a sample of 9,195 cases. Compared with other studies of child abuse reporting, this sample is unique in being a national sample of youth in crisis when they call, rather than being a sample of youth who have already come to official attention, or a sample of adults retrospectively discussing their childhood experiences.

Of those 9,195 youth callers, 5% choose to have their abuse reported. A logistic regression model found that the probabilities of reporting (compared to not reporting) ranged from .01 to .11. The probability of reporting increases from age 11 to 13, and then declines to age 17. The probability of reporting (compared to not reporting) is greater when abuse is physical or sexual (compared to emotional/verbal or neglect). Female callers are more likely to report than males, and the probability of reporting is slightly greater when the abuser is a parent, compared to non-parent. The highest probability of reporting is .11, for female callers, age 13, who mention physical or sexual abuse by a parent. The lowest probability of reporting is .01, for male callers, age 17, mentioning emotional or verbal abuse or neglect by a non-parent.

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