Predictors of psychological recommendations in child protection evaluation

Jelena Zumbach, Peter Wetzels, Ute Koglin - Child Abuse & Neglect


Child protection matters from an important social and legal challenge, in which psychologists may be called upon to address a series of questions relevant for judicial decision-making. In an explorative manner, the current study investigates variables that influence psychological evaluators’ recommendations in child protection cases. The data is based on a quantitative content review of 103 psychological evaluation reports, conducted at an institute of forensic psychology in Germany. Using bivariate and logistic regression analyses, the following predictors were analyzed in this study: Child-related factors, familial risk factors, and general custody criteria. The outcome measure was the evaluator’s recommendation regarding long-term placement of the child and long-term custody arrangements. Evaluators were more likely to recommend permanent foster placement if the child showed insecure or disorganized attachment patterns, especially when combined with developmental delays, or if the child was temporarily in institutional or foster placement at the time of evaluation. The results support the conclusion that the most important factors for psychological expert recommendations refer to the “harm of the child” criterion in terms of developmental and psychological maladaptation.