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Date of Award


Document Type

Dissertation - Pacific Access Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)



First Advisor

Mari G. Irvin

First Committee Member

Margaret E. Ciccolella

Second Committee Member

LaVon M. Rupel

Third Committee Member

Judith Van Hoorn

Fourth Committee Member

Jim Wakefield


Purpose. Youth suicide and child abuse are major societal problems of the late twentieth century, with alarming rates of occurrence and significant negative effects. Prevention and treatment programs exist for students once they are identified as abuse victims or at high risk for suicide. However, the identification process is made difficult by the lack of discriminating signs and symptoms. Peers are often the first to hear about a friend's abuse or intent to suicide, but may not share that information with an adult. The purpose of this study was to determine whether exposure to information on reporting personal knowledge of abuse or suicidal intention affects the inclination of middle school students to report such knowledge to adults. Procedures. Three hundred and twenty three middle school students in public school classes in San Joaquin County (California) were included in the sample. A total of 14 classes (seven control and seven experimental) were used. A questionnaire (Peer Confidant Survey) developed to measure students' inclination to report peer disclosures was used in the study. During the study the questionnaire was administered three times to each classroom: pre-training, immediately following training and one month after completion of the training. The Peer Confidant training for the experimental group consisted of information on discrimination of disclosures, listening skills, training on whom to tell and what to tell, and discussion of what constitutes being a friend (not betraying a confidence versus reporting). Findings. Results of the study suggested that middle school students are already inclined to report knowledge of abuse and suicidal intent among their peers to adults. They also demonstrated the ability to discriminate between reportable and non-reportable disclosures. After exposure to the training program designed to increase inclination to report knowledge of abuse and suicidal intent, students appeared to temporarily increase their inclination to report knowledge of suicidal intent but not knowledge of abuse. No significant group differences were found among sixth grade, eighth grade, special education and gifted students. Implications of the study and areas for further research are discussed.



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