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Articles: Psychological evaluations

Posted: Fri Mar 03, 2006 12:09 pm
by Marina
Guidelines for psychological evaluations for child protection matters

Misuse of psychological tests

Posted: Fri Mar 03, 2006 12:10 pm
by Marina
Misuse of psychological tests in forensic settings

Benchmarks (court guide, psychological evalu.)

Posted: Fri Mar 03, 2006 12:11 pm
by Marina

Posted: Sun Apr 23, 2006 1:04 am
by Greegor
From one of those links:
Misuse of psychological tests in forensic settings


The plethysmograph is a useful technique in developing individualized treatment program for sexual offenders. However, it is an error to use it with someone who denies committing a sexual offense in order to determine the veracity of the denial (21). William R. Farrall, the major manufacturer and provider of plethysmographs and trainer of the use of penile plethysmographs, says that the plethysmograph must never be used in this way because it produces too many false positives — that is, deviant elevations in persons who are not sex offenders (22). The consensus of the experts in the field is that plethysmography is useful in treatment, has limited use in predicting future behavior of known sex offenders, but is of no use in screening a normal population. It cannot be used to determine whether a person who has been accused of sex molestation and is denying it is telling the truth.

Research indicates that normal heterosexual males with no indication of any sexual interest in children frequently respond with some evidence of penile engorgement to the presentation of the stimuli used to present aberrant sexuality, including children. The data also show that responses to the plethysmograph can be manipulated and faked in any direction the subject chooses (23-26).

Example 16

A client was given the penile plethysmograph and it was found that his highest level of arousal was to adult females followed by four-year-old females and 12-year-old females. This was used to support the conclusion that the client was a possible pedophile who therefore had been untruthful in his denial of child sexual abuse.


There has been much criticism of the use of the anatomical dolls in assessments of children suspected of sexual abuse. The anatomical dolls sometimes are used as a type of test and the behavior of the child in interacting with the dolls is used to draw conclusions about abuse. Two American Psychological Association committees (the Committee of Children, Youth, and Families and the Committee on Psychological Testing and Assessment) (27) determined in a March, 1988 meeting that the dolls "are considered to be a psychological test and are subject to the standards when used to assess individuals and make inferences about their behavior" (28).

We have frequently criticized the use of the dolls and the way interactions with the dolls are often interpreted (15, 29-31). To date, there are no standardized or normative data for the dolls, a fact acknowledged by the APA Council of Representatives in 1991 (32). Nevertheless, a whole paper could be written on horrible examples using the dolls. We have addressed this elsewhere and will not discuss this further here.

However, many other techniques are used by psychologists and other evaluators, such as games, puppets, story telling, play observations, projective cards, and play dough (33). When the psychologist goes beyond these techniques as a way of encouraging the child to talk and uses them as indications or evidence of abuse, they are subject to the same criticisms leveled against the dolls and the drawings.

Example 17

In an evaluation session, a three-year-old girl poked a toy cat with a tinkertoy. Her parents also reported that she tried to poke the cat at home. (The parents gave great attention to this behavior, which, not surprisingly, continued and escalated.)

This was interpreted by the evaluator in terms of reenactment and repetition and was seen as supporting the belief that the child had had a tinkertoy stuck up her genitals by a four-year-old boy at the day care center (this supposedly happened in the lunch room with a teacher present). The poking of the toy cat with the tinkertoy was seen as symbolic for the boy poking her. The evaluator claimed that the child was working through her trauma by repeating her own victimization. The play was interpreted as supporting the reality of the alleged abuse (which was unsubstantiated by child protection).

Example 18

The therapist claimed that she was able to tell whether the alleged events (ritualistic, satanic abuse) actually happened or didn't happen by observing such things as a "white face" or "dark eyes" when the child was talking about the events.

Example 19

The child was described as having the "hardened, drawn, demeanor of an abused child." This was used as evidence that the child had, in fact been abused. (Photographs of the child taken during this period show a normal appearing, attractive child.)

Example 20

A baby was returned to the foster mother following a visit with the parents and was described as having the "smell of sex." An emergency hearing was held in which social services attempted to cut off visits because this "smell of sex" triggered the suspicion that the parents were having sex with their baby. A psychologist agreed that the sex smell was significant and indicated probable abuse on the part of the parents. Fortunately, the parents had been at a church potluck dinner during the entire visit so they were able to disprove, the accusations.