Making Waves or Keeping the Calm?: Analyzing the Institutional Culture of Family Courts Through the Lens of Social Psychology Groupthink Theory

Law & Psychology Review, Vol. 34, p. 55, 2010

Albany Law School Research Paper No. 29

36 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2010 Last revised: 10 Feb 2011

Melissa L. Breger

Albany Law School

Date Written: November 23, 2010

Abstract

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.

Keywords: gender, race, groupthink, family court, culture, psychology, reform, family, children, court, lawyering, judging, bias, institution, group dynamics

Suggested Citation

Breger, Melissa L., Making Waves or Keeping the Calm?: Analyzing the Institutional Culture of Family Courts Through the Lens of Social Psychology Groupthink Theory (November 23, 2010). Law & Psychology Review, Vol. 34, p. 55, 2010; Albany Law School Research Paper No. 29. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1713757

Melissa L. Breger (Contact Author)

Albany Law School ( email )

80 New Scotland Avenue
Albany, NY 12208
United States
518-445-2311 (Phone)

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