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Behavioral Genetics and the Best Interests of the Child Decision Rule


David J. Herring


University of New Mexico School of Law


University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, Vol. 36, p.1-34, 2002
U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research

Abstract:     
This article proposes that modern child custody law should be reassessed in light of recent scientific findings. Judicial determinations of custody use the "best interests of the child" rule. The rule is justified to a large extent by the goal of maximizing child developmental outcomes. The assumption is that a child whose "best interests" are protected stands a better chance of becoming a socially well-adjusted, productive and prosperous citizen.

Recent child development studies have shown that so-called "shared environment," or home environment factors have little effect on child development so long as the shared environment is minimally adequate. Genetics and "non-shared environment" have a far greater influence on child development outcomes. While other reasons for the "best interests" rule may ultimately justify it, maximizing positive child development is not a justification supported by science.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 34

Keywords: behavioral genetics, child decision rule, child custody law, best interests of the child, shared environment, home environment factors

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Date posted: February 8, 2009  

Suggested Citation

Herring, David J., Behavioral Genetics and the Best Interests of the Child Decision Rule. University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform, Vol. 36, p.1-34, 2002; U. of Pittsburgh Legal Studies Research. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1339344

Contact Information

David J. Herring (Contact Author)
University of New Mexico School of Law ( email )
1117 Stanford, N.E.
Albuquerque, NM 87131
United States

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