[FrontPage False Component]

Problems with Evaluation of Child
to Be Anticipated

A psychological evaluation must be conducted under the direction of a child psychiatrist or a child psychologist.  All too often, such evaluations are conducted by undirected or unsupervised social workers and problems arise.  They arise because the education and training specifically in interviewing children for sexual abuse is generally quite deficient:
  • they do not learn about videotaping
  • they do not learn how to examine without using leading questions
  • they do take or are not given a training course in how to ask direct questions
  • they assume any physical complaint by the child indicates that sexual abuse or rape has occurred (see Symptoms).
  At the end of an evaluation based on history, interviews of the child and parents, and a review of corroborating evidence, the clinician who has done the evaluation needs to decide whether sexual abuse occurred.  A carefully written report should document the basis for these determinations.

The evaluator may be unable to determine whether sexual abuse occurred.  A number of reasons might explain this outcome, including contamination by too many evaluations, particularly biased or leading questions, or even the age of the child -- that is, the child may be too young to verbalize what occurred.

Although not specifically mentioned in any guidelines, one must look at the alleged offense and see whether the allegations of that offense actually happened and are credible--whether what was said actually happened and by whom it was said and whether they are credible.  In other words, is the act which was alleged to have been done an act which fits into the pattern of what sex offenders do?   Do the allegations fit those patterns?  Patterns of sexual offending.

The psychological examination must also consider the history of the suspected abusive parent relative to violence or taking advantage of a child and so forth.

A video recording of these evaluation process  is important because the simple expression on the face of the interviewer and/or the comments that the interviewer makes are positive reinforcement:

"That"s a good girl."
"Do you recall . . . ?"
"That"s fine."
"Don't you feel better now?"

Positive reinforcement can be letting that child know the kinds of things that the interviewer is looking for.

If an interviewer started the evaluation assuming that abuse occurred rather than with a completely clean, unbiased slate, then the interviewer inevitably accepted all the statements of the child as validations of what that person had assumed was true before the intgerview began.

By the time the interview was over -- given the interviewer's bias and the positive reinforcement the child received -- the child had been taught to say exactly what the interviewer wanted to hear the child say.

And in the absence of a video recording or at least an audio, an independent evaluator cannot evaluate how good that interview was.