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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 135523 Find in a Library
Title: Prediction, Prevention, and Clinical Expertise in Child Custody Cases in Which Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse Have Been Made: I. Predictable Rates of Diagnostic Error in Relation to Various Clinical Decisionmaking Strategies
Journal: Family Law Quarterly  Volume:25  Issue:2  Dated:(Summer 1991)  Pages:217-252
Author(s): T M Horner; M J Guyer
Date Published: 1991
Page Count: 36
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Mental health practitioners and other child and family specialists are frequently asked to provide expert opinions in cases of child custody and visitation in which allegations of child sexual abuse have been made.
Abstract: Experts have attained a status in the judicial process for children that is disproportionately influential relative to their actual ability to improve upon the accuracy or appropriateness of ordinary means of judicial decisionmaking. Most mental health experts are sophisticated enough to frame their custody-visitation recommendations in quasiprobabilistic terms. They know that errors of classification and prediction are always possible; hence, they need to act according to their best judgments. Cases of alleged sexual abuse raise interesting and unavoidable cost-benefit dilemmas for expert witnesses. The accuracy dilemma arises when an expert witness attempts to maximize correct predictions in situations where inherent uncertainty assures that total accuracy cannot be achieved. The main task is to be correct as often as possible when there are no decision rules other than estimates of the base-rate frequency of child sexual molestation in the context of contested divorce actions. In the risk dilemma, the expert is compelled to face the fact that not all possible decision outcomes are equal in terms of their immediate or ultimate costs and benefits to the individuals involved. In child custody or abuse cases, experts act in the capacity of amicus curiae. The judge is the ultimate fact-finder and weighs expert opinions as to their validity, reliability, and applicability. Models are described for solving some of the problems associated with expert decisionmaking strategies. 46 footnotes, 4 tables, and 4 figures
Main Term(s): Child Sexual Abuse
Index Term(s): Abused children; Child abuse investigations; Child custody; Child victims; Expert witnesses
Note: Part II of article published in Family Law Quarterly, V 25, N 3
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