Termination of parental rights is one of the most important decisions that the legal system undertakes regarding children's lives. Judges who are called upon to make this decision have increasingly looked to mental health professionals to provide scientific information to aid them in decision making. This paper argues that caution needs to be exercised as professionals approach this task, given the limitations of our current theory and data base. Using cognitive theory, places where personal or societal biases can enter evaluations and testimony are highlighted. Behavioral research, it is argued, has much to offer, given its emphasis on a functional approach to understanding behavior. The ways in which behaviorally oriented assessment can be of use to the legal system around this question are outlined and a research agenda for the field is offered.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Clinical Psychology