A Critical Examination of Suitability and Limitations of Psychological Tests in Family Court

Family Court Review, Vol. 45, p. 157, 2007

Posted: 3 Apr 2007

See all articles by Steven K. Erickson

Steven K. Erickson

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Scott O. Lilienfeld

Emory University - Emory College of Arts and Sciences

Michael J. Vitacco

Mendota Mental Health Institute

Abstract

Psychologists are frequently consulted by the courts to provide forensic evaluations in a variety of family court proceedings. As part of their evaluations, psychologists often use psychological tests to assess parents, guardians, and children. These tests can have profound effects on how psychologists arrive at their opinions and are often cited in their reports to the court. However, psychological tests vary substantially in their suitability for these purposes. Most projective tests in particular appear to possess little scientific merit for evaluations within family court proceedings. Despite these serious limitations, expert testimony derived from evaluations using both projective and objective tests is often admitted uncontested. This article reviews the psychometric properties of psychological tests that are widely used in family court proceedings, cautions against their unfettered use, and calls upon attorneys to inform themselves of the limitations of evaluations that incorporate these tests.

Keywords: family court, psychological evaluations, psychological tests, experts

Suggested Citation

Erickson, Steven K. and Lilienfeld, Scott O. and Vitacco, Michael J., A Critical Examination of Suitability and Limitations of Psychological Tests in Family Court. Family Court Review, Vol. 45, p. 157, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=976531

Steven K. Erickson (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Scott O. Lilienfeld

Emory University - Emory College of Arts and Sciences ( email )

Department of Violence Studies
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

Michael J. Vitacco

Mendota Mental Health Institute ( email )

301 Troy Drive
Madison, WI 53704
United States

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