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Advances in School Mental Health Promotion
ISSN: 1754-730X (Print) 2049-8535 (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rasm20
Greek teachers’ experience and perceptions of
I. Bibou-Nakou & A. Markos
To cite this article: I. Bibou-Nakou & A. Markos (2017): Greek teachers’ experience and
perceptions of child abuse/neglect, Advances in School Mental Health Promotion
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/1754730X.2017.1333916
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ADVANCES IN SCHOOL MENTAL HEALTH PROMOTION, 2017
Greek teachers’ experience and perceptions of child abuse/
I. Bibou-Nakoua and A. Markosb
aDepartment of Primary Education, School of Education, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki,
Greece; bDepartment of Primary Education, School of Education, Democritus University of Thrace,
The present paper focuses on teachers’ experiences of child abuse/
neglect cases, teachers’ awareness of reporting or discounting, and
their ways of responding to a hypothetical disclosure of abuse/
neglect. A total of 1877 teachers in Greek public schools participated
from a national teacher in-service training across the country; of
them, 306 (16.3%) reported that they had experiences with children
exposed to forms of abusein their professional career. The higher level
of perceived awareness of reporting responsibility was signicantly
associated with a lower level of discounting and with more appropriate
ways of teachers responding to a child’s disclosure. The ndings are
discussed within the Greek context, highly characterized by its lack
of institutional arrangements and adequate child protection services
that could facilitate schools to document, examine and share helpful
practices for child abuse and neglect.
Teachers play a pivotal and unique role in promoting mental health throughout their schools,
as well as preventing mental health problems from arising, and also dealing with them when
they have become established (Albuhairan, Inam, Al-Eissa, Noor, & Almuneef, 2011; Dinehart
& Kenny, 2015). The present paper focuses on teachers’ beliefs regarding suspected child
abuse and neglect (CAN). Since they are the ones likely to encounter children within their
classes who have been neglected or abused, it is important that teachers not only understand
and acknowledge the eects that this experience can have on children, but also know how
they can help support them. Overall, child abuse and neglect is especially important to
teachers, because of the numbers of children they see daily, their legal mandate to report
suspected abuse, and the fact that they are among the rst to identify and report suspected
child maltreatment (Abrahams, Casey, & Daro, 1992; McIntyre, 1987; Walsh, Rassaani,
Mathews, Farrell, & Butler, 2012). In addition to this, school personnel are central to coordi-
nating the educational support frequently needed by abused and neglected children and
they are morally committed to safeguarding children’s well being (Walsh, Farrell, Schwaitzer,
& Bridgstock, 2005).
© 2017 The Cliﬀord Beers Foundation
Teachers’ role in child abuse/
neglect; awareness of
Received 23 October 2016
Accepted27 April 2017
CONTACT I. Bibou-Nakou email@example.com
2 I. BIBOUNAKOU AND A. MARKOS
Child abuse and neglect has been identied as a serious problem leading to negative
outcomes in terms of the child’s psychosocial development (Azar, 2000; Cicchetti & Toth,
2005). That said, recent studies attempt to understand the causes of heterogeneity in
children’s responses to abuse/neglect (Cecil, Viding, Fearon, Glaser, & McCrory, 2017).
Unfortunately, Greece lacks epidemiological studies and systematic collection of data
regarding the detection and reporting of CAN cases (Ntinapogias & Nikolaidis, 2013). As
a result of this fact, the frequency of CAN in the general population can be estimated at
1–2% (Agathonos, 1998), and 1.000–2.000 new cases are anticipated per year for all ages
(Ntinapogias & Nikolaidis, 2013).
This paper was prepared with all practitioners and families in mind, but particularly for
teachers who need to clarify their position in the confusion that surrounds work in child
abuse (Mathews, Walsh, Coe, Kenny, & Vagenas, 2015; Trowell, Jennings, & Burrell, 1996).
Although the account of the current research is descriptive rather than denitive or exhaus-
tive, we believe that this paper, as oered, could be a resource to support developments for
change in the interagency collaboration between the educational, social, child protection
and mental health services.
The available international research has shown that teachers’ knowledge on CAN is gen-
erally decient (Abrahams et al., 1992; Karadag, Sönmez, & Dereobali, 2015; Livny & Katz,
2016; Sahebihagh, Hosseini, Hosseinzadeh, & Shamshigaran, 2016). Indeed, in most countries
although the school has a central role in identifying and reporting on CAN (Kenny, 2001),
teachers not only lack extensive and evidence-based training in child abuse, but also infor-
mation on the requirements of mandated reporting and ethical concerns (Gilbert et al., 2009;
Mathews et al., 2015). Further, even though in some countries school sta as mandated
reporters tend to make reports to child protective services, at the same time, there is docu-
mentation that teachers miss identifying an adequate number of cases as well (Brubacher,
Powell, Snow, Skouteris, & Manger, 2016; Goebbels, Nicholson, Walsh, & de Vries, 2008).
Although they appear generally knowledgeable about child abuse, they hold a number of
erroneous beliefs about reporting procedures (Falkiner, Thomson, & Day, 2017; Kenny, 2001).
The majority of researchers globally focused on exploring the training or the knowledge
level of teachers regarding child abuse and neglect and their reporting responsibilities along
with adequate coping strategies towards the child and his/her family (Dinehart & Kenny,
2015; Mathews et al., 2015). This pool of research has produced conicting results, which
can be attributed to methodological issues, availability of services, the existence of varying
denitions, meanings and understandings of child maltreatment (Portwood, 1998; Pugh,
1992), legislative procedures, and other sociocultural factors. Crenshaw, Crenshaw, and
Lichtenberg (1995), for instance, state that there is a lack of evidence to conclude that improv-
ing knowledge and support for mandatory reporting increases reporting tendency and rate.
In the same line of argumentation, however, Walsh and Farrell (2008) state that the lack of
training does not mean lack of knowledge. They assert that most teachers have knowledge
from their pre-service teacher education programmes, or become informed through reading
about it and discussing it with colleagues thus, forming a practically driven source to help
them deal with CAN.
The ability to detect and eectively deal with possible child abuse cases presupposes
sound professional knowledge and experience. The professional also needs to recognize
the numerous conicting agendas in child abuse and neglect cases, which lead to feelings
of helplessness that give rise to defense mechanisms, such as discounting the experience
ADVANCES IN SCHOOL MENTAL HEALTH PROMOTION 3
of abuse (Azar, 2000; Johnson, 1994). A denial of child abuse and neglect is a common stance
taken not only by maltreating parents or perplexed teachers, but by child mental health and
social policy professionals as well (Azar, 2000). That said, the ndings of a systematic literature
review revealed that many children experiencing abuse/neglect fail to be recognized by the
school system (Livny & Katz, 2016). Thompson and Wyatt (1999) present evidence to suggest
that even in countries with developed child protection agencies the quality of work is some-
times dened by practices that disempowered the very same children whom they are meant
to protect, the main reasons being the decentralization and fragmentation of the services
provided. Many professionals, including teachers, are reported to lack training in specic
reporting procedures, such as when and how to make the report (Abrahams et al., 1992;
Falkiner et al., 2017). Decision-making about suspected child abuse is highly complex not
only for teachers (Brosig & Kalichman, 1992), although there is evidence to suggest that
teachers are within those professionals who report most cases (Brubacher et al., 2016;
McCallum & Johnson, 2002). McIntyre (1987) concluded that 96% of teachers said they felt
morally (and not legally) obligated to report child abuse. According to Mathews et al. (2015),
professional reporting duties are inuenced by a number of individual and social/cultural
factors, such as the level of training, knowledge of duty, the ability to recognize abuse, the
severity of the incident, the level of institutional/contextual support, legislative status, the
nature of the reporting duty, and procedures for reporting.
The purpose of the present article was: (1) to assess the frequency and experience of child
abuse and neglect as stated by a sample of Greek teachers working mainly in primary edu-
cation, (2) to assess teachers’ current awareness of their role to report incidents of abuse, (3)
to assess teachers’ discounting of child abuse/neglect, and (4) to assess teachers’ responding
to a child’s disclosure of abuse, that is, the coping mechanisms they chose when faced with
a child abuse/neglect incident. Our overall aim was to explore the relationships between
teachers who had experience of abuse/neglect cases, teachers’ awareness of reporting or
discounting, and teachers’ ways of responding to a hypothetical disclosure of abuse/neglect.
The research context
Although the problem of child abuse/neglect has been extensively studied in most Western
societies, in Greece there is a scarcity of knowledge following the pioneering work done by
Agathonos (1998). With the exception of a few pilot programmes that support certain schools
mainly in the big urban centres, there is a noticeable absence of Child Protection Services
and interagency networks, whose role is to protect the child, but also to prepare teachers
to meet the growing responsibilities for dealing with CAN. The absence of any registry for
reporting and epidemiological surveillance of CAN reported cases along with the fact that
there is no mandatory reporting and registering procedure, result in the use of dierent
classication criteria and assessment methodologies of CAN reports. In addition, there is
currently no national law in Greece dedicated exclusively to child abuse and neglect: the
legal system is quite vague regarding who is responsible to act in cases of CAN although a
series of national laws contain provisions about child abuse and neglect. The above lead to
a lack of systematic guidelines for inter-professional management or child maltreatment
reporting policies internally in any Greek school (Tsirigoti, Petroulaki, & Nikolaidis, 2010).
Specically, in relation to the child protection system in Greece, given the fact there is no
central institution where someone can report a case, and no national system of child
4 I. BIBOUNAKOU AND A. MARKOS
protection, someone can report a case of child abuse or suspected child abuse/neglect to
various agencies or institutions e.g. police, health services and NGOs or municipalities’ social
Thus, the absence of a Child Protection System, the lack of a standardized common pro-
tocol, along with a non-existent culture of the collaboration of schools with judicial author-
ities, health services, police and social services, leads to teachers being understandably
confused as regards their role in reporting such cases. It is not simply that they are unaware
of the report making process, but more so, the sentiment of ‘what is the use of proceeding’
when nothing or little can be done; a fact that has been recognized in other cultures as well
(Albuhairan et al., 2011).
Very recently, the lack of data reporting systems on the prevalence of CAN in Greece has
been dealt with through the project ‘Coordinated Response to CAN via MDS’ (Minimum Data
Set) (Institute of Child Health, 2015).
Participants and procedure
A total of 1877 teachers in Greek public schools were recruited from a national teacher
in-service training across the country. The objective of the training was general and the
participating teachers were convenient sampling: they would serve as teachers in specic
geographical areas (Central, Eastern and Western regions of Macedonia), being under the
responsibility of the Academic Institution entitled for the in-service training.
They were mostly female (61%), working in primary education (92.7%), with a mean age
of 39.8 years and a mean teaching experience of 13.9 years. With regard to their educational
background, the vast majority (70.8%), were graduates of the older form of teacher acade-
mies, and 29.2% were university graduates. Most of the participating teachers were working
in areas with over 100,000 inhabitants (38.8%), 35.2% were working in areas with up to
100,000 people, 14.5% were working in areas ranging from 2000 to 10,000 inhabitants, and
the remainder (11.5%), were working in areas with up to 2000 habitants.
The survey was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Academic Institution (Faculty
of Education, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki). The authors addressed the teachers at the
beginning of the training seminar to explain the purpose of the study. In addition, a letter
of introduction briey described the study, its purpose and time commitment, and provided
contact information for the study investigators. Participants were encouraged to ll in the
questionnaire with trust and security and were assured condentiality and discreet use of
the data by the researchers.
A questionnaire developed by Hawkins and McCallum (2001a) was administered to the
participants. The selection of the particular questionnaire was mainly based on the fact that
it covers all types of abuse, along with teachers’ perceptions (both strengths and limitations)
regarding their professional role in a broad, though descriptive way. Due to the fact that in
Greece we lack descriptive data related to CAN and the role of the school, we thought it as
a useful measuring instrument. Specically, the questionnaire included a section with
ADVANCES IN SCHOOL MENTAL HEALTH PROMOTION 5
demographic characteristics (such as sex, age, educational background, geographical area
of residence and population of this area, length of tenure, and family status), followed by
two single questions concerning the teacher’s personal experience with CAN (‘Have you,
personally, ever had to work with a child abuse/neglect case? Yes/No. If Yes, indicate.’) and
their personal opinion about being required to report a child abuse/neglect incident, regard-
less of the existing legislation (‘Regardless of what the law may say, do you personally believe
that teachers should be always required to notify the authorities if they suspect that a child
has been abused or neglected? Yes/Unsure/No’). In addition, the questionnaire consisted of
three Likert-type scales designed to measure: (a) teachers’ awareness of their reporting
responsibilities (ve questions with response options 1 = ‘no,’ 2 = ‘unsure’ or 3 = ‘yes’),
(b) discounting, i.e. whether teachers had a tendency to discount the existence, signicance,
and solvability of child abuse and neglect, as well as the role of personal responsibility in
child protection (eight statements on a ve-point scale ranging from 1 = ‘strongly disagree’
to 5 = ‘being strongly agree’), (c) ways of teachers’ responding adequately to a child’s disclo-
sure of abuse (sixteen statements on a ve-point scale ranging from 1 = ‘strongly disagree’
to 5 being ‘strongly agree’).
Preliminary analyses revealed a low percentage of missing values (items were missing
between 0 and 2.9%, average 1.9%), which were replaced by the mean values of the corre-
sponding items. Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) using oblique (promax) rotation was used
to examine the factorial structure of the three multi-item scales. Internal consistency relia-
bility was estimated for each scale using Cronbach’s alpha coecient. Pearson correlations
were calculated between teachers’ awareness of their reporting responsibilities, discounting
and responding to a hypothetical disclosure. Independent samples t-test and One-way
ANOVA (followed by Scheé’s post hoc test) were used where appropriate, to examine
whether the personal experience of a child abuse/neglect incident as reported by the teach-
ers, and their personal opinion about being required to report a child abuse/neglect incident
regardless of the existing legislation, dierentiate teachers’ awareness of the reporting role,
discounting attitudes and ways of responding to a child’s disclosure of abuse.
Frequency of CAN experience
16.3% of the teachers (n = 306) indicated that they had personally worked with a child
abuse/neglect case (Table 1 summarizes their answers). The most common type of abuse
reported was physical abuse (40.8%), followed by physical neglect (36.9%). Due to the fact
that the signs of emotional and sexual abuse are not as obvious as those of physical abuse/
neglect, these types were not typically reported. Moreover, according to the participants,
the sort of evidence that is most easily documented and witnessed is physical abuse and
while this is important, equally pressing is the necessity to document other forms of child
6 I. BIBOUNAKOU AND A. MARKOS
Awareness of reporting responsibilities
Table 2 presents the ve questions used to investigate teachers’ awareness of reporting
responsibilities. Exploratory factor analysis suggested that the scale is unidimensional, i.e.
that the ve items load on a single underlying factor. This factor explained 39.2% of the total
variance with loadings ranging from .59 to .67. Internal consistency reliability was found
satisfactory (Cronbach’s alpha = .71). In line with Hawkins and McCallum (2001a), to gain an
overall measure of awareness of reporting responsibilities, teachers received one point for
each question answered correctly, with a maximum of ve points. All questions, with the
exception of question 2, were scored 1 if the response was ‘Yes’ and 0 otherwise. Question
2 was scored 1 if the response was ‘No’ and 0 otherwise. The mean total awareness score was
4.42 (.91), indicating a high level of perceived awareness of reporting responsibility among
the participating teachers (Table 2).
Table 3 presents the eight statements used to investigate the participants’ level of discount-
ing (i.e. attitudinal resistance or denial of the problem). EFA suggested a four-factor solution
with two items loading on each factor, which could be identied as: (1) tendency to discount
the existence of child abuse, (2) signicance of child abuse, (3) solvability of child abuse, and
(4) the role of self (personal responsibility) in child protection. All four factors accounted for
71% of the total variance. Cronbach’s alpha values were generally low to moderate, ranging
from .49 (personal responsibility) to .66 (signicance), most likely due to the low number of
items loading on each factor. Participants’ responses on each factor were averaged, with a
maximum score of 5, with higher scores indicating higher levels of discounting. Teachers
generally reported low to moderate levels of discounting, with the exception of two items
‘Child abuse is too big a problem to deal with’ (M = 3.66) and ‘I have not had enough expe-
rience to deal with child abuse and neglect’ (M = 3.24).
Appropriate responses to a child’s disclosure of abuse
Participants were presented with sixteen statements following the question: ‘When a child
discloses that he/she has been abused, we may respond in many ways. Indicate how you
would respond in such situations by circling one number in each row.’ The results are pre-
sented in Table 4. Exploratory factor analysis indicated a three-factor structure which
explained 44% of the total variance, which we named (1) Childcope: this factor includes six
Table 1.Types of child abuse/neglect reported by teachers in the study.
Note: The percentage in the second column refers to the positive answers given by the subsample of 306 teachers, while in
the third column the percentage refers to the entire sample of 1877.
Type of abuse n%* % (total)
Physical abuse 125 40.8 6.7
Neglect 113 36.9 6.0
Suspected abuse 4 1.3 .2
Undeﬁned 38 12.4 2.0
Sexual abuse 20 6.5 1.1
Harsh discipline 6 2.0 .3
Total 306 100 16.3
ADVANCES IN SCHOOL MENTAL HEALTH PROMOTION 7
items that deal with the responsibility of the teacher as an adult towards a child, hypothet-
ically disclosing CAN. Specically, it involves ways of ensuring safety and protection for the
child and reducing possible feelings of guilt on the part of the child regarding his/her dis-
closure; (2) Infocope: the second factor has seven items and deals with the ways teachers
can gather evidence so as to be sure about the disclosure by sharing the available information
either within the school system or by making appropriate enquiries within the family envi-
ronment; (3) Dealcope: the third factor, consisting of three items, focuses on the teachers’
eorts to deal with a hypothetical disclosure within the classroom context by sharing the
information with the student’s peer group, or being lenient towards the hypothetically
Based on Hawkins and McCallum’s (2001a) denition of responding appropriately, for
items 5, 10, 12, 13, 15 and 16, higher levels of agreement indicate more ‘appropriate’ answers,
whereas for items 1–4, 6–9, 11 and 14, lower levels of agreement indicate more ‘appropriate’
answers. Internal consistency was moderate to high, with Cronbach’s alpha values .63 to .86.
Mean scores on the three subscales were averaged to create total scores so that higher scores
indicate more appropriate coping, after reverse coding where necessary. According to total
scores (Table 4), teachers appeared to respond more adequately when they were called to
support and protect the child (Childcope; M = 3.49), followed by responses related to
Table 2.Means, standard deviations and factor loadings for awareness of reporting responsibilities scale.
Note: The higher the mean score, the higher the level of perceived awareness (the reverse holds for question 2).
Awareness of reporting responsibilities (1 = No, 2 = Unsure, 3 = Yes) Min Max Mean SD Loading
1. Are you responsible for notifying the authorities of a suspicion of child
1 3 2.92 .31 .59
2. If you suspected child abuse/neglect but were somewhat unsure,
should you investigate this potential abuse seeking further evidence?
1 3 1.07 .30 .58
3. Should you report suspected abuse even if you do not have solid
1 3 2.84 .48 .67
4. If you suspect that a child in your class is being abused/neglected but
were somewhat unsure, is it appropriate to contact authorities to
discuss the matter?
1 3 2.94 .30 .65
5. Is failure to report suspected child abuse an oﬀence? 1 3 2.68 .62 .59
Total awareness 0 5 4.42 .91
Table 3.Means, standard deviations and factor loadings for discounting items.
Note: The higher the mean score, the higher the level of discounting.
Discounting (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree) Min Max Mean SD Loading
Existence (α = .59) 1 5 2.09 .75
Parents have the right to treat their children as they see ﬁt 1 5 1.61 .98 .43
Children lie and make up stories about abuse 1 5 2.59 1.00 .55
Signiﬁcance (α = .66) 1 5 2.60 .93
The eﬀects of child abuse are exaggerated 1 5 2.76 1.02 .68
We are over-reacting to abuse 1 5 2.45 1.09 .67
Solvability (α = .55) 1 5 2.89 .86
Child abuse is too big a problem to deal with 1 5 3.66 1.45 .43
There is no point notifying: nothing is done because welfare agencies
1 5 2.12 1.13 .54
Personal responsibility (α = .49) 1 5 2.41 .81
I feel sorry for abused children but it’s not my responsibility to get
involved: I’m not a social worker
1 5 1.61 .85 .57
I have not had enough experience to deal with child abuse and neglect 1 5 3.24 1.18 .39
8 I. BIBOUNAKOU AND A. MARKOS
ensuring the child’s belonging in the safe space of a class (Dealcope; M = 2.71). The teachers
responded less eectively when they assumed that their role was to validate their suspicions
for CAN by gathering some or more evidence (Infocope; M = 1.97).
Relationships between awareness, discounting and coping
Next, we examined the relationships between the dierent ways teachers responded to a
hypothetical disclosure (coping), discounting and awareness of their role in reporting the
CAN incident (Table 5). Perceived awareness of reporting responsibility was found to be
weakly and positively correlated with childcope (r = .14, p < .01), but negatively correlated
with infocope (r = −.21, p < .01) and dealcope (r = −.08, p < .01). Moreover, weak and negative
correlations were found among perceived awareness of reporting responsibility and dis-
counting dimensions (r = −.19, p < .01, for solvability and r = −.13, p < .01, for personal
responsibility). Finally, weak and negative correlations were found between discounting
dimensions and childcope, ranging from −.16** (signicance) to −.08** (personal
The role of personal experience of child abuse/neglect on awareness, discounting
attitudes and coping
The next set of analyses attempts to answer the question of whether or not personal expe-
rience of a child abuse/neglect incident as reported by the teachers dierentiates the ways
they respond to a hypothetical disclosure of CAN, their discounting attitudes, and awareness
of their reporting role (Have you personally, ever had to work with a child abuse/neglect?).
Table 4.Means, standard deviations and factor loadings for ways of responding to child disclosure
Coping (1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree) Min Max Mean SD Loading
Childcope (α = .86) 1 5 3.49 .35
10. Emphasize that the abuse is not the child’s fault 1 5 4.37 1.03 .75
11. Explain to the child that it is not really that diﬃcult to talk about
these things with someone who cares
1 5 4.35 .85 .62
12. Tell the child that some adults do wrong things 1 5 4.19 .97 .77
13. Tell the child that you will do your best to protect him/her 1 5 4.29 .89 .72
14. Promise not to tell anyone if that is what he or she desires 1 5 4.29 1.09 .60
15. Tell the child that disclosing was the right thing to do 1 5 4.65 .64 .59
Infocope (α = .78) 1 5 1.97 .40
3. Persuade the child to give more details of the abuse 1 5 4.23 .85 .56
4. Contact the child’s parents to discuss the abuse 1 5 4.29 .89 .54
6. Discuss the case with the principal to determine whether or not to
1 5 4.65 .65 .65
7. Gather more evidence before notifying the authorities 1 5 4.57 .69 .63
8. Speak with other teachers to ﬁnd out whether they have noticed any
diﬀerences in the child’s behaviour
1 5 4.62 .68 .74
9. Speak with the child’s sibling(s) to gain more proof 1 5 3.97 1.09 .52
16. Report the disclosure to the authorities. 1 5 4.15 .88 .33
Dealcope (α = .63) 1 5 2.71 .67
1. Compensate the child by being lenient in terms of classroom
1 5 3.56 1.15 .64
2. Tell the other children to be considerate towards this child because he
or she is ‘having a diﬃcult time’
1 5 2.86 1.31 .73
5. Tell the child that this has happened to other children 1 5 2.55 1.31 .66
ADVANCES IN SCHOOL MENTAL HEALTH PROMOTION 9
As shown in Table 6, no statistically signicant dierences were found in terms of teachers’
appropriateness of responding/coping when they have experienced a CAN incident in their
school. On the other hand, those teachers who stated that they had worked with a case of
CAN, reported lower levels of discounting with regard to the existence of child abuse and
neglect, t(1875) = 3.53, p < .001, as well as the role of personal responsibility in child protec-
tion, t(1875) = 5.56, p < .001. No statistically signicant dierences were found regarding
teacher awareness for the taking on the responsibility of reporting. In other words, the
majority of the participating teachers stated that they had a high degree of responsibility
to report CAN, irrespective of their personal experience in working or not with a similar case.
The role of personal opinion about being required to report a child abuse/neglect
incident on awareness, discounting attitudes and coping
With regard to teachers’ personal opinion about being required to report a child abuse/
neglect incident, regardless of the existing legislation, the vast majority of respondents (86%)
tended to agree that they should always be required to notify the authorities if they
Table 5.Pearson correlations among awareness of reporting responsibilities, discounting attitudes and
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6) (7) (8)
(1) Childcope –
(2) Dealcope −.04 –
(3) Infocope .23** .10** –
(4) Existence −.12** −.04 .05*–
(5) Signiﬁcance −.16** −.04 .04 .39** –
(6) Solvability −.10** −.05*.02 .18** .26** –
(7) Personal responsibility −.08** .03 .08** .18** .13** .47** –
(8) Awareness .14** −.08** −.21** −.05*−.07** −.19** −.13** –
Table 6. Diﬀerences in teachers’ awareness of reporting responsibilities, discounting attitudes and
appropriateness of responding to a child’s disclosure with regard to their personal experience of child
Experience nMean SD tdf p
Childcope No 1571 3.41 .35 1.92 1875 .06
Yes 306 3.45 .38
Dealcope No 1571 2.71 .67 .32 1875 .84
Yes 306 2.71 .72
Infocope No 1571 1.96 .41 .46 1875 .64
Yes 306 1.95 .41
Existence No 1571 2.19 .75 3.53 1875 <.001
Yes 306 1.99 .68
Signiﬁcance No 1571 2.57 .92 .67 1875 .50
Yes 306 2.52 .94
Solvability No 1571 2.90 .84 1.79 1875 .07
Yes 306 2.78 .90
Personal responsibility No 1571 2.46 .56 5.56 1875 <.001
Yes 306 2.13 .54
Awareness No 1571 4.44 .48 −.59 1875 .56
Yes 306 4.51 .41
10 I. BIBOUNAKOU AND A. MARKOS
suspected that a child has been or was being abused or neglected, while 9.9% were unsure
and only 4.1% disagreed.
Results of One-way ANOVA (Table 7) indicated signicant dierences with respect to
awareness, F(2, 1876) = 176.568, p < .001, η2 = .164, and childcope, F(2, 1876) = 12.789,
p < .001, η2 = .01. Post hoc multiple comparison tests revealed that teachers who stated
that they should always be required to notify authorities in the case of child abuse and
neglect, chose more appropriate ways of responding in terms of adults ensuring protection
and safety for their students (childcope), but the eect was small. Moreover, they demon-
strated a signicantly higher mean level of perceived awareness of responsibility to report
than those who stated that they were either not well prepared or unsure (p < .01). No
statistically signicant dierences were detected with respect to teachers’ only dealing
with the situation within the classroom setting (dealcope), or with respect to validating
suspected abuse/neglect by sharing information within the school and the family
The study has conrmed that teachers in Greek schools encounter some measure of child
abuse and neglect during their professional career, and they perceive that they have a
responsibility to report it. They state that child maltreatment is not a homogeneous phe-
nomenon and children may be victimized by dierent forms of abuse. Of the 1877 partici-
pants, 306 (16.3%) reported that they had experiences with children exposed to various
forms of violence in their professional career, with the majority of participants stating physical
abuse (6.7%) and neglect (6%) as the most common types of child abuse. Once again, the
lack of national norms does not allow the comparison of our data. Still, there is international
evidence to suggest that despite the fact that teachers have been legally mandated to report
suspected incidents of maltreatment in many countries, they do not comply with the legis-
lation and fail to report suspected incidents (e.g. Mathews et al., 2015). In addition, the
underreporting of child abuse has been widely recognized, along with the orerreporting
among mandated reporters, and teachers in particular (Webster, O’Toole, O’Toole, & Lucal,
Table 7.Diﬀerences in teachers’ awareness of responsibility to report and appropriateness of respond-
ing to a child’s disclosure with regard to their personal beliefs on notifying the authorities.
Notify authorities nMean SD Fdf1, df2 p
Childcope Yes 1615 3.50 .35 12.789 2, 1876 <.001
Unsure 185 3.41 .33
No 77 3.36 .45
Total 1877 3.49 .35
Infocope Yes 1615 1.96 .40 2.909 2, 1876 .055
Unsure 185 2.06 .43
No 77 2.01 .54
Total 1877 1.97 .41
Dealcope Yes 1615 2.69 .69 2.741 2, 1876 .065
Unsure 185 2.79 .62
No 77 2.81 .60
Total 1877 2.70 .68
Awareness Yes 1615 4.53 .42 176.568 2, 1876 <.001
Unsure 185 4.00 .48
No 77 4.01 .69
Total 1877 4.46 .48
ADVANCES IN SCHOOL MENTAL HEALTH PROMOTION 11
2005). These facts may, in part, explain the low percentage of teachers reporting some per-
sonal experience with CAN in our study, as well.
The percentage of the dierent forms of abuse in the current study is in line with existing
research ndings (Karadag et al., 2015; Youssef & Atta, 1998), implying that these are the
predominant forms of child maltreatment, whose signs are, if not obvious, easily detected
(Thompson & Wyatt, 1999). On the other hand, child sexual abuse is the most dicult type
of child maltreatment for teachers to accurately identify (Walsh et al., 2005) and in the present
study, only 1.1% of participants stated that they had worked with a sexual abuse case.
Educators, all over the world, face a number of evident challenges in fullling the rather
broad and somewhat vaguely dened mandates in their eorts to support children who
have experienced or are experiencing maltreatment, and their families. More often than not,
these challenges are related to an excess of responsibilities, lack of time for extremely needy
children, as well limited scal and personnel resources. Added to this, Greek teachers have
numerous systemic features that aect detecting and reporting child abuse and neglect
such as: the lack of a mandatory recording system, the absence of institutions for immediate
protection and therapeutic intervention, and the great confusion regarding professional
responsibilities (Tsirigoti et al., 2010). In spite of all these contextual and systemic barriers,
Greek teachers in the present study overwhelmingly support that they have a signicant
role in the child protection system as regards CAN: 92.67% stated they strongly believed
they had a responsibility for notifying the authorities on a suspicion of child abuse/neglect,
95.25% thought it appropriate to contact authorities to discuss suspected CAN, 89.27%
stated that suspected abuse should be reported even when there is no solid evidence (nor
any services to report the suspected case to), and 76.18% agree that failure to report sus-
pected child abuse is an oence. In line with our ndings, Dinehart and Kenny (2015)
researching the reporting practices of 137 education personnel working in early childhood
centres in Florida, USA, found that the vast majority of the participants (96.2%) believed that
they should have the obligation to report child abuse, while 82.5% reported having had
training on child abuse at some time during their career. The clear dierence between Greece
and the USA is that while teachers in both countries accept they have a responsibility to
report CAN, in the latter, they have not only been trained to deal with such cases but there
also exists a support network in child and adolescent services.
We wish to emphasize that there seems to be a discrepancy between evidence of fairly
high levels of non-reporting across a range of professional disciplines and countries (Bunting,
Lazenbatt, & Wallace, 2010) and teachers’ increased awareness of reporting in the present
study as well as those previously referred to. It seems as if the high level of awareness of
reporting responsibilities in the current study does not reect ‘real-world’ reporting. In our
research, a very large percentage of participating teachers expressed their awareness of
reported responsibility, which could, however, be due to dierent perceptions. A number
of interpretations could be that perhaps the participating teachers wanted to put across the
message that their schools are a safe place to be; or it may be that many view their partici-
pation in child protection work as a priority; and further still, it could be due to the fact that
teachers feel accountable for their students’ well being or that they are well aware of the
unrealistic expectations of society regarding teachers’ role, with the lay public often ready
to make criticism or accusations (Burrows & Gillanders, 2002).
In accordance with the results of our study, there is a signicant association between the
higher level of perceived awareness of reporting responsibility and a lower level of
12 I. BIBOUNAKOU AND A. MARKOS
discounting. Additionally, a higher level of awareness of the responsibility to report was
linked to teachers’ giving a more appropriate response to a child’s disclosure. This was in
relation to the teacher’s eorts to safeguard the child’s well being in class and generally, as
well as not taking on the role of investigating and validating the CAN case.
The present study did not nd an association between teachers’ prior experience in work-
ing with an abused child and a higher awareness of reporting responsibility. International
ndings appear to be ambiguous as far as the link between experience in maltreatment,
teachers’ awareness of reporting responsibility and the teacher’s role (Karadag et al., 2015).
On the one hand, there are studies that have shown a negative correlation between teachers’
experience and reporting responsibility (Finkelhor & Ormord, 1999; Gilbert et al., 2009; Tite,
1993). Other studies, however, support that less experience increases the tendency to refer
maltreatment (e.g. Brosig & Kalichman, 1992, or Bunting et al., 2010). There is some interna-
tional evidence to suggest that teachers’ past experiences in reporting maltreatment might
have an impact on future detection and reporting (Walsh et al., 2005). A determining factor
in whether teachers with experience of abuse would report it appears to be related to their
experience with the child protection system (Tite, 1993; Walsh et al., 2005; Zellman, 1990).
Thus, greater investigation of teachers’ experiences of existing child protection systems is
needed, as well as their interpretations for cooperation with them.
Teachers’ answers in the present study, where they were asked to respond to a hypothet-
ical disclosure of CAN, were satisfactory concerning their role in ensuring the child’s safety,
reducing the child’s sentiments of guilt following the disclosure, and creating a sense of
belonging for all children. However, their perception of being responsible for gathering
information themselves, in order to validate the suspected abuse was misguided. According
to Hawkins and McCallum (2001b), teachers, irrespective of whether they have had training
in the ‘right’ coping mechanisms or not, are reluctant to report a suspected case of child
abuse without rst seeking further evidence that will constitute reasonable grounds for
suspicion. Tite (1993) has also pointed out that teachers are concerned about the validity of
their suspicions, preferring to question and collect information from the child and the other
sta as a way of decreasing any uncertainty they may have about the incident, a nding
recently conrmed by Dundaralp, Kaya, Guler, and Demir (2016), in the study of 173 teachers
in Turkey. These data seem to be conrmed by other professional groups as well (Nyathi &
Akister, 2016). On the other hand, according to Toros and Tiirik (2016), ‘playing the detective
with insucient knowledge might result in longer neglect and abuse for the child.’ (p. 27).
Internationally, it seems as if the experience of working in schools leaves many, even trained,
teachers confused in terms of the everyday reality, the boundaries of their role and the
practical procedural methods to be employed (Baginsky, 2003; Brubacher et al., 2016; Falkiner
et al., 2017).
Based on the results of our study, teachers generally do not adopt the mechanism of
discounting the experience of child abuse and neglect. However, on the basis of the solva-
bility of child maltreatment, which is one of the factors for discounting, more than two thirds
of the participants (64.5%) supported the view that child abuse is too big a problem to deal
with, while half (50.9%) claimed that they did not have enough experience to deal with child
maltreatment. In addition, we found a signicant association between less appropriate
teacher response to a child’s disclosure of abuse/neglect and teacher discounting of CAN.
In an earlier study, McIntyre (1987) found that while almost two-thirds of the teachers (61%)
stated that child abuse was an issue of major importance that had to be dealt with, just over
ADVANCES IN SCHOOL MENTAL HEALTH PROMOTION 13
a third (37%) considered it an issue of some importance. In their study, Hawkins and McCallum
(2001b), found signicantly higher levels of discounting in the group of teachers that had
no educational training in dealing with child abuse and neglect. There have been suggestions
that some teachers may be prone to discounting abuse because it provokes negative and
distressing feelings (Feng, Huang, & Wang, 2010). According to Burrows and Gillanders (2002),
child abuse and neglect places great emotional stress on teachers to confront it, and training
dealing with teachers’ resistance and emotional deregulation may be important (Brubacher
et al., 2016; Elliot, 1998). Bryant and Baldwin (2010) for instance, found that the participating
teachers in their study desired more training regarding ways to explore possible child abuse
in their students and help the families identied as abusing.
Literature on teachers’ reluctance to report child abuse and neglect tends to indicate that
one of the most discouraging factors is that the intervention will cause major disruption in
the relationship between the teacher and the student and the student’s family (Azar, 2000;
Baginsky, 2003; Kalichman, Craig, & Follingstad, 1990). These fears must be addressed so
that teachers feel empowered and have strategies along with other members of a school or
out of school group of professionals. Added to this situation is that often both international
and Greek procedures for reporting to child protection agencies are not clear-cut, leaving
teachers with more dilemmas than solutions. Johnson (1994) stressed that training provision
for teachers who tend to discount or deny the existence and seriousness of child abuse is
of paramount importance.
Overall, teachers’ personal beliefs and the negotiation process of possible discounting
need to be taken into consideration when designing and implementing pre-service and
lifelong training. Bourke and Maunsell (2015), for instance, in discussing current changes to
Irish legislation regarding mandatory reporting, stress the role of teachers’ implicit theories
to reporting and dealing with child abuse and neglect. They strongly support a thorough,
extensive, and holistic teacher training, which takes into account their implicit beliefs and
opinions regarding child well being and family functioning. In our opinion, it is more ben-
ecial to all parties concerned to ensure that teachers are well trained in how to report rather
than blaming them for not reporting incidents of CAN.
The current ndings suggest that many teachers hold misconceptions about their legal
responsibilities to report, such as their role in detecting and validating a suspected case of
abuse/neglect. Although investigating and documenting a case is not part of their role, it
appears to be a necessary process for teachers. There is no need, however, for distrust, skep-
ticism or criticism on the part of mental health workers and social policy makers as to the
professional role of teachers. We strongly agree with Johnson’s statement (1994) that teachers
are easy targets for criticism and blame for inappropriate reporting or relative reluctance to
become actively involved in such cases. In line with the current international literature,
teachers are called on to negotiate and share knowledge of suspected CAN (Davidov, Sigad,
Lev-Wiesel, & Eisikovits, 2016). Interestingly, according to the present study and existing
research, while teachers seem to know what to do, they do not know how to do it (Nyathi
& Akister, 2016).
Addressing child abuse and neglect is generally a complex issue and there were limitations
to this study that need to be taken into account. On the one hand, as data were collected
via self-report, we cannot be sure to what extent social desirability and agreement bias
aected responses. This does not, however, diminish the importance and contribution of
our study. On the other hand, due to the cross-sectional nature of the study design, no causal
14 I. BIBOUNAKOU AND A. MARKOS
relationships can be established. Second, the current study should be extended to address
practitioners’ perceptions regarding their professional role regarding CAN and their ways of
collaborating with schools. In future, it will be important to record information about teach-
ers’ training experience and its impact on mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect.
Despite the absence of training and inter-professional cooperation and support, teachers
in Greece are one of the professional groups that state they have an active role in the rec-
ognition and treatment of neglect/abuse. In our opinion, further research is needed to con-
rm the current ndings, taking into consideration the needs of teachers for training and
support in their dealing with abuse/neglect of children.
Implications of the study
There is evidence to suggest that education and mental health professionals need to
expand their exchanges in order to achieve and/or ensure quality practice regarding
children’s mental health and well-being (Becker, Brandt, Stephan, & Chorpita, 2014). The
present study aimed to improve our understanding of teachers’ experience of CAN and
thus, facilitate or improve collaboration between all involved (e.g. school sta, families,
mental health professionals). Children and adolescents experiencing abuse and neglect
are at risk of developing psychosocial and academic diculties, despite the fact that
many of them are still able to fare well (Browne, 2002; Howing, 1993; National Clearinghouse
on Child Abuse & Neglect Information, 2002). Schools can play a consistent role in
children’s lives identifying child abuse and neglect and providing services that will
address these children’s adverse circumstances. Consequently, teachers who work directly
with children need to be given professional development opportunities to gain knowledge
of child abuse and neglect, and how best to address its impact on children and
Internationally, teachers fail to report suspected abuse due to their uncertainty over
whether there is sucient evidence that abuse has occurred, their belief that the maltreat-
ment is not suciently serious to report, or their distrust of the interventions of child mental
health and social services (Davidov et al., 2016; McGrath, Cappelli, Wiseman, Khalil, & Allan,
1987; O’Toole, Webster, O’Toole, & Lucal, 1999).
Overall, the current state of aairs in Greece is that teachers are not adequately trained
in CAN. In the last 5 years, positive steps have been taken by the Institute of Child Health
which has developed serious initiatives and introduced mandatory reporting; nevertheless,
there is still a lot of work to be done within the school context. Serious barriers need to be
overcome for there to be recognition, reporting and support provision for children expe-
riencing abuse or neglect. According to our ndings, Greek teachers assume a signicant
responsibility and are aware of their role in the child protection system and in meeting the
social-emotional needs of their students. Given the willingness of teachers to accept their
responsibility to report incidents of child abuse/neglect and protect their students from
it, we should provide adequate training for them in terms of dealing with allegations,
talking with the children, and participating in inter-professional collaborations. School
mental health programs internationally provide evidence-based results in terms of chil-
dren’s social, emotional and cognitive development through partnerships between schools
and community mental health agencies (Ko & Cosden, 2001; McClure, 1983). There is still
ADVANCES IN SCHOOL MENTAL HEALTH PROMOTION 15
a need for the development and the evaluation of interventions that are relevant to the
contextual needs of educational systems and school settings. Having a better understand-
ing of the process and of the factors that inuence reporting child abuse and neglect, for
example, may lead to training development and policy practices more responsive to teach-
ers’ needs in coping with child maltreatment (Donohue, Alvarez, & Schubert, 2015). Further,
although international teacher education programs have been developed relying mainly
on a discipline-specic knowledge base for CAN, there is a need for constructivist
approaches that take into consideration both teachers’ beliefs and secure bases in schools
for child maltreatment and its impact on young people’s mental health (Walsh & Farrell,
Professionals’ detecting and reporting practices are complex (Collin-Vezina, De La
Sablonniere-Grin, Palmer, & Milne, 2015) being inuenced, among other factors, by char-
acteristics of the abusive event, the individual and professional characteristics of the teachers
as observers, and organizational features of the relevant contexts (Walsh et al., 2005).
Determining reasons to report or not to, are in no way limited to legislative measures, and
the law is not the main factor that compels teachers and other school sta to report (Krase
& DeLong-Hamilton, 2015).
Although there have been a few small steps taken to address the issue of CAN in Greece,
we still have a long way to go. It is, however, positive that in spite of all the shortcomings
and inadequacies, teachers declare that they have an important role in child abuse and
neglect. Internationally, our ndings have implications for countries still developing their
mandated reporting and child protection training protocols. The collaboration between
schools and families that diminishes the conict between the autonomy of the family and
the school/state intervention should be further explored in future studies. Practicing the
reporting process and interventions for CAN in real world as are schools for children is often
dicult (Alvarez et al., 2010).
Overall, the ndings of the present study have the scope to inform research and clinical
practice in three key ways. First, the prevention and reporting of CAN requires acknowledge-
ment of the various challenges the schools face addressing child abuse and neglect and
accommodating both the protection of children and the family independence. Second, there
is a need, not only for Greece but internationally, to establish acceptable evaluation plans
that take into consideration teachers’ understanding and practice of mandatory reporting
of CAN. Third, additional eorts should be made among school communities to enhance
collaboration between themselves and practitioners to benet children and families.
Integrating mental health awareness into the school setting and strengthening it as a com-
mon point of entry for the provision of services that students have a right to receive, is, thus,
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
A. Markos http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4204-3573
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