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Child abuse and decision-making in South Africa : a grounded theory exploration.

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It was recommended by the American Psychological Association and the American Bar Association in October 1999, that the time had come for psychologists to do more than act as expert witnesses, and that their influence should be felt " ... at the first level of intervention" (Foxhall, 2000, p. 1). The first level of intervention is considered, in this study, to be the decision-making process. This research examines the decision-making processes used by four of the disciplines integral to the child abuse multi-disciplinary team. Social workers, child protection officers of the South African Police Services, psychologists and prosecutors currently involved in the child abuse arena in South Africa were given case vignettes to anchor their decision-making on simulated examples. On the basis of these in-depth interviews, using a Grounded Theory methodology, three specific questions are addressed, namely: how decisions are made and substantiated; how they differ across disciplines; and how they compare to recommended protocol. Results indicate interesting differences across these four disciplines. The differences between the decision-making processes in the disciplines seem to be rooted in their philosophical tenets, which give rise to specific aims in addressing child abuse. Differences between the decision-making processes and recommended protocol were also noted in cases where guidelines are available. In addition differences in expected outcomes of the vignettes, use ofassumptions and a level of mistrust between professionals was shown. If this research can help to sensitise professionals to begin to understand their own decision-making processes and those of their fellow decision-makers, then perhaps key role players and policy makers may be one step closer to responding to the challenge of child sexual abuse in South Africa.


Thesis (M.A.)-University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2002.


Abused children--Services for--South Africa., Child abuse--South Africa., Child abuse--Research--South Africa., Child welfare workers--Decision making., Child welfare--Evaluation., Theses--Psychology.