Making Waves or Keeping the Calm?: Analyzing the Institutional Culture of Family Courts Through the Lens of Social Psychology Groupthink Theory
Melissa L. Breger
Albany Law School
November 23, 2010
Law & Psychology Review, Vol. 34, p. 55, 2010
Albany Law School Research Paper No. 29
This article argues that the institutional culture of Family Courts across the nation too often stifles conversation and innovation and discourages loyal client-centered advocacy. The article presents the social psychology theory of groupthink as a backdrop to hypothesize about the reasons such dynamics may exist and then suggests reform ideas to change negative aspects of the court culture. A groupthink mentality can manifest itself among the institutional players in Family Court, through monolithic thinking and myopic decision making, or through entrenched resistance to outsiders or outside opinions. If left unchecked, this can result in “mindless conformity” and a “collective misjudgment of serious risks” in case decisions, thus negatively impacting parties, in particular, and the legitimacy of the court system, in general. The article aims to encourage further discussion and research about Family Court institutional culture by providing a nexus to the groupthink literature and a framework for organizing that discussion.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 36
Keywords: gender, race, groupthink, family court, culture, psychology, reform, family, children, court, lawyering, judging, bias, institution, group dynamics
Date posted: November 23, 2010 ; Last revised: February 10, 2011
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