Primary school teachers' encounters with cases of suspected or disclosed child sexual abuse

Graham, Rachel (1996). Primary school teachers' encounters with cases of suspected or disclosed child sexual abuse. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e11d

Abstract

This study explored 45 primary school teachers' encounters with cases of suspected or disclosed child sexual abuse. Stage I involved a cross-sectional survey which investigated the training experiences and support opportunities for teachers in relation to child abuse. The Maslach Burn-out Inventory assessed levels of occupational stress.

Teacher's identification of abuse and their perceived ability to cope with such cases were hypothesised as associated with the perceived adequacy of training and support, and with teacher's reported levels of occupational stress.

Stage II involved interviewing seven teachers to explore the emotional impact of working with cases of suspected or disclosed abuse.

The entire sample felt that initial teacher training had not adequately prepared them to deal with abused children; over 95 per cent said they would welcome more training. Formal support for teachers was limited and, largely, considered inadequate. Nethertheless, the majority felt they would cope'well'with cases of abuse.

Analysis of results revealed that teachers who had not received disclosures were more likely to rate support as adequate; teachers who had harboured suspicions and teachers who had received disclosures reported higher levels of burn-out.

Qualitative material revealed factors that affected the ability to cope with cases of abuse and factors that influenced the emotional impact of such work.

Aspects of primary school teachers' unique position appear to make encounters with abused children particularly disturbing. It is suggested that the emotional impact of such work could be mediated by resources such as training and support. The implications of insufficient resources extend beyond the psychological well being of the teacher to the effective protection of the child. The implications for clinical psychology are discussed.

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