|I want to make it clear from the start, that I am not
here to tell you the right way for psychologists to conduct Section
15 assessments nor am I here to tell you, as lawyers, how to cross-examine
their reports. I am going to focus our attention on my profession,
Psychology; how it has become a big business, how it is targeting
the justice system, and how, in many ways, it is selling the Courts
"a bill of good."
I have, undeniably, broken ranks. I speak very critically of my
own profession. And, in the next few moments, I will begin to put
my concerns, as they pertain to Section 15 and custody evaluations,
"on the table." From the outset, I would like you to know
that I can back up anything I say, including those statements which
clash dramatically with widely accepted ideas. I'm a serious researcher
and an obsessional file keeper. I will encourage your skepticism,
welcome your questions, gladly provide you with my sources, and
invite you, at any time today or in the future, to examine them
and to challenge me.
I was, in fact, drawn to the discipline of psychology by the intriguing
questions that it asked and by the insistence that any answers,
and all statements, be examined from every angle and seriously scrutinized.
For almost 3 decades, I worked as a clinician, trying to apply the
knowledge from my discipline. But Psychology has changed; today
there are too many answers and too few questions; the humble curiosity
has given way to an arrogant certainty. It seems that psychologists
have discovered that Questions don't pay, only Answers do.
Five years ago, I forced myself to step back and take a cold hard
look at my profession. I am still a psychologist by license here
in B.C. and in Ontario but what I see being done under the name
of psychology is so seriously contaminated now by errors in logic,
popular myths and personal beliefs, and it is doing so much harm
to people, both adults and children, that I find myself in this
strange role of working to curb the pervasive influence of my own
Long ago I lost any expectation that the necessary corrective actions
would come from within the profession; so, I find myself speaking
most often now to people outside my profession - to philosophers,
to ethicists, to the clergy, to educators, to criminologists and
to lawyers. Last Fall, in Halifax, I had the opportunity to address
the Canadian Association of Provincial Court Judges. The topic they
gave me was: Judicial Skepticism: Judging Psychology and Psychologists,
and my message to them, put simply, was that:
(1) psychology is an industry masquerading as a profession,
(2) this industry is aggressively targeting the judicial and legal
systems as growth markets for its services.
(3) the current business formula of this industry is:
(4) trusting psychologists is so dangerous to the Justice System
that judicial skepticism is not only warranted but urgently needed!
What I will suggest to you this evening is a similar message but
with point 3 revised to present a business formula more specific
to Family Law:
PARENT = QUESTION = CLIENT = PROFIT
What psychologists suggest is that parents, when they come to divorce
and disagree over custody arrangements, have a problem that psychologists
say can be resolved only by the involvement of psychologists from
which, of course, psychologists profit. This might seem like a reasonable
series of connections, except that, as I will argue, psychologists
have very little, if any, knowledge or expertise to offer in these
matters and, I suspect, are there primarily to expand their business
and their influence.
Psychologists generally consider themselves to be experts in each
and every aspect of life, for as George Albee, a past president
of American Psychological Association (APA,) put it: "our social
problems are all human problems, and we (psychologists) are the
experts on this." Resonating this view and embellishing it,
Frank Farley a recent president of the APA wrote that psychology
"may be in the process of re-inventing itself as the
primary discipline in the solution of humanity's major problems...
Psychology can do much to improve the world."
Conversely, I would add, the world can do much to improve Psychology.
This attitude of arrogance particularly as it relates to children
and parents is not new. As early as 1914, the Good Housekeeping
magazine published an article: "Mothercraft: A New Profession
for Women" proclaiming that "the amateur mother of yesterday"
would be replaced by "the professional mother of tomorrow."
No longer were women to rely on their maternal instincts, the wisdom
passed down through generations or the advice and support of family,
friends, and other mothers. American mothers were being psychologically
persuaded to turn for advice to
professionals, who, at that time were heavily influenced by Freud's
Despite the fact that children had been more or less successfully
raised for thousands of years, child-rearing was reinvented as a
psychological task that required expert guidance if it was to be
done properly. Not long after that article appeared, the behaviourist,
John Watson, began to apply his behavioural theories to child-rearing,
giving further strength to the psychologically fostered notion that
professionally directed parenting could create a successful child
while avoiding the pitfalls leading to problem children. Watson
claimed that he could take any dozen healthy infants and, with proper
training, "guarantee to take any one at random and train
him to become any type of specialist (one) might select - a doctor,
lawyer, artist, merchant-chief and yes, even beggarman and thief,
regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations
[or] race of his ancestors."
Childhood was, and still is, a popular target for these psychological
theories and pronouncements since it is so amenable to being abstracted
into systems of stages and phases each with its own school of experts.
Presently, there are experts in infant bonding and infant stimulation,
in moral, religious, social, psychological, and intellectual development,
in early childhood education, in under-achieving and over-achieving,
in conduct disorders and shyness, in learning disabilities and cooperative
play, and so on ad infinitum. There are Freudians, Humanists, Family
Therapists, Behaviourists, Adlerians, and so on, prepared to analyse
and treat each activity of a child, and all claiming to have specialized
knowledge and skills that qualify them to be better able to give
answers. But are they?
Over 30 years ago, I walked into my first psychology class at McGill
University. The professor was a lean, older man who walked with
a limp. His name was Donald Hebb, and he was one of the most respected
neuropsychologists of this century. I can remember him saying something
to me which I have only recently come to fully appreciate. He kept
insisting that psychology must be "MORE than common sense;"
that psychologists must be obliged to go beyond what people commonly
believe, to test out notions and see if they stand up under scrutiny.
He insisted on science - on investigation. Unfortunately, psychologists
seem so dedicated now to confirming their own notions that the voices
of those who remain committed to examining these notions, testing
them and disproving them are rarely heard. So, it is the untested,
unproven psychological notions which have come to influence thinking
and discourse. People, throughout society, are mistaking "psychological
notions" for "psychological knowledge" or they are
so enamored with these notions that, even when the ideas make no
sense at all, they refer to them as "common sense."
Custody litigation is an area in which such notions are having
a profound effect. I'd like to point them out and ask each of you
to consider the implications from your own vantage point.
First, I am going to ask you to consider a disturbing reality,
that is that the profession we call 'Psychology ' has actually become
THE PSYCHOLOGY INDUSTRY.
1. THE PSYCHOLOGY INDUSTRY
We are accustomed to viewing psychology as a scientifically based
profession and psychologists as scientists and experts, striving
to reduce suffering and eradicate social problems; always in the
best interest of their client or in this instance, the best interest
of the child. But this is the promoted image - the manufactured
public image. I'm asking you now to consider an alternate image
- that of Psychology as big business and of psychologists as those
who profit from the sale of psychological products/services/influence.
What if Psychology is actually an industry? And what if, like most
industries, it is focused on:
- protecting its own interests by creating licenses
- expanding its market by developing new areas of
- increasing its influence by entering courts and
The implications are serious and, before discussing them, let me
first give you a bit of the history of Psychology. At the beginning
of the 20th century, it emerged, first, as a discipline, comparable
to philosophy or anthropology. Then, very quickly, it defined itself
as "a profession," like medicine and law and; then, with
virtually no-one noticing what was happening, it became an industry.
When the American Psychological Association (APA) was formed just
over 100 years ago, there were only a dozen or so members; they
were primarily physicians or philosophers; not one of them was "a
licensed psychologist." Now there are 151,000 members of that
association alone and professional licenses abound.
This credentialing actually started as recently as the 1950's,
when Medicine was threatening to take control of psychotherapy by
designating it as a medical procedure. Basically, medical doctors
were saying that they, and only they, should diagnose mental illnesses
and treat people for psychological problems. To protect themselves
from becoming quickly unemployed, psychologists established licensing
boards, which means that they gave themselves licenses. Then, they
used these licenses to create monopolies and to qualify themselves
for third-party payments. Protecting the public had nothing to do
with it; the incentive was self protection. Not surprisingly, Social
Workers, Marriage and Family Therapists, and a whole range of people,
offering mental health services have followed their lead, establishing
licensing boards of their own. And, even as we sit here today, new
credentialing bodies are being formed.
As one group seeking licensure put it: "Certification is one
of the major ways in which unrecognized or under-recognized professions
achieve parity and recognition."You will note that there is
no reference to public welfare or ethical practice. And that's precisely
my point! Licensing, certification, credentialing in psychology
is about self-interest. It's about looking credible and getting
When I use the term "psychologist," I often use it with
a small "p" referring to all of these people who sell
expert opinions, market their workshops about parenting or family
relations, diagnose/label people as suffering from psychological
injuries, offer parental support and do counseling and psychotherapy.
When I use the term, "The Psychology Industry," it's the
business, the packaging, promotion and sale of these services that
I'm talking about.
If we consider just the big "P" licensed psychologists
like me, we have a per capita rate of 1/4000 but if we consider
all of them (including the Family Counselors, Feminist Counselors,
Social Workers, Crisis Workers, etc.) the estimate would be about
one for every 250 people. Keep in mind that this is a better ratio
even than lawyers. An American Psychiatric Associationpresident,
Howard Rome, has jokingly said that soon there will be more psychologists
than people in America and a Psychiatric Association President (not
joking at all) has said:
actually, no less than the entire world is a proper catchment
for present day psychiatry (and psychology), and psychiatry need
not be appalled by the magnitude of the task... Our professional
borders are virtually unlimited.
Like anyone with something to sell, these people need customers.
As suppliers have increased, so too have users. The increase in
users of psychological services looks something like this:
in the 60's-14% of the population; by the 70's-26%; by 1990-33%;
and in 1995-46% of the population had seen or was seeing a psychologist.
Some are projecting that, by the year 2000, 80% of the population
will be Psychology Industry users.
Now, I would never argue that there is anything intrinsically wrong
in wanting to earn a living, even a good living. That's an issue
for all of us. But there is a problem when people, claiming to be
professionals, ignore the lack of a knowledge base for what they
are doing, fail to acknowledge the existence of research which questions
the services they provide, and persist in doing things which may
even be harmful to others.
II. THE JUSTICE SYSTEM AS A GROWTH MARKET FOR PSYCHOLOGY
The Psychology Industry, while trying to appear confident to its
customers, is having its troubles. As more and more competitors
appear and, as money for health care decreases and along with it
psychologist jobs, there is considerable worry, even panic, being
expressed within the ranks. Just listen to a couple of recent quotes
from Executives in Canadian psychological associations:
Psychologists are expensive to feed and painless to drown.
Our profession is under siege. Government spending cuts for
research, health care and education have gone well beyond the fat
and are now deep into the muscle and bone.
Like it or not we have got to do business differently. This
is not a false alarm but a wake up call; at issue is our survival.
Finding new target populations and new markets is a major activity
and, progressively more, psychologists are seeking their survival
within the Justice System as Forensic Psychologists, seeking to
do, for example, Section 15 evaluations.
As early as 1976, the APA, in its guide to career opportunities
for psychologists, expressed the "expectation that in the future
forensic psychologists will roam confidently and competently
far beyond the traditional roles of psychologists..."
A 1995 membership survey of the APA indicated that almost 40% of
members had been expert witnesses in court proceedings; almost half
of licensed psychologists consider themselves to be experts and
the courts agree.
The same year the Practice Directorate of the APA, addressing the
issue of income security, stated that "diversification is a
viable form of self-preservation... Psychologists may still get
a steady stream of clients paying out-of-pocket, but not enough
to replace third-party payments... Forensics offers broad opportunities
In September of last year, the 1997 APA president stated: "I
believe that forensic psychology is a growth area within psychology."
In April of last year (1997), the ABA and the APA held a joint
conference titled "Children, divorce and custody: Lawyers and
psychologists working together," to explore the professions'
common grounds and how they might better help each other. Ira Lurvey,
JD, chair of the ABA Family Law Section, said "I'm getting
euphoric comments from every possible point on the compass,... Especially
in the field of family law, there is a growing symbiosis between
law and psychology. These groups increasingly will be working together."
And, in reporting to its members about this conference, the December
1997 issue of the APA's flagship journal, American Psychologist,
expressed the view that psychology "is poised to grab a more
prominent role in law after years of hanging in the sidelines."
What is it that psychology offers in exchange for this prominent
role? I would suggest to you that it offers information about the
family, the parents and the children which almost any one could
gather and mixes this with psychological numbers and notions which
have little to no validity and can lead to biassed conclusions harmful
to children and parents alike.
III) THE PRODUCT
For many years, the Courts, often cast in the role of Solomon,
have asked for additional information to assist them in making their
decisions about custody and access. Often, they have asked social
workers or court workers to gather information about the parties
and the children, the marital situation and the events surrounding
But gradually they have become persuaded that this common practical
information was not sufficient, that what they needed was the keen
eye of "an expert" qualified to gather and interpret professionally
acquired facts. And it was here that the Psychology Industry, and
particularly the licensed psychologists, made their sales pitch,
arguing that they could make objective observations and provide
important psychological test data, which, when combined, could result
in more accurate predictions and more objective and definitive decisions.
This marketing has been so successful that in some cases decisions
have been made elated to the amount of expert time involved and
been overturned because they lacked a complete evaluation. In one
American case cited by Ziskin, the trial court weighed the testimony
of two psychiatrists thus:
In this case, after having spent approximately 56 hours meeting
with and evaluating the parties and the children, Dr Marc Reubins,
the court-appointed psychiatrist, was of the opinion that it was
"not in the best interest of the children to remain living
in the house of their mother... the opinion of the mother's expert,
a Dr. Green... was concedely flawed. Dr. Green himself, who had
interviewed the mother and the children for only a few hours over
a two-week period..., admitted that his qualification to make a
custody recommendation was limited since he had not seen both parents
and he had not seen the children interact in the presence of both
parents. Under these circumstances, little or no weight should have
been accorded to his recommendation that custody be awarded to the
And in a state appeals court's decision, "it would be seriously
remiss if we allowed a custody determination to stand without ...complete
forensic evaluations of the parties and the child..."
I would challenge these promotional claims and the conclusions
drawn from them, especially as they relate to members of my own
1) Regarding observations and interviews.
Psychologists by and large are inclined to look for and find psychopathology,
employing an illness model of human behaviour and focusing on illusive
psychodynamic factors. When this attitude and approach is combined
with observing and interviewing individuals during a marital break-up,
which the DSM defines as a severe psycho-social stressor, it is
not surprising that psychologists can find problems to talk about.
However, except in situations of gross disparities, such as physical
abuse, ongoing alcoholism, or severe psychological illness, which
even the untrained eye would pick up, there is little that warrants
the fine distinctions being made by psychologists between one parent
and the other. There are few, if any, perfect parents. Most people
have some flaw or shortcoming which can be magnified but nevertheless,
manage to raise their child. In most cases it is reasonable to expect
that the child will grow up relatively normal regardless of which
parent has custody. It may well be that the only factor that determines
which parent is deemed better, is the psychologist's personal bias,
thus, negating the value of any psychological evaluation beyond
the pragmatic considerations, leaving the Courts free to make a
decision based on practical common-sense considerations.
2) Regarding psychological testing.
Psychologists have long been known for their psychological tests:
intelligence tests that most of us encountered in school, the aptitude
and personality questionnaires, and the (in)famous ink blot test.
While the fact that some of these have existed for many years suggests
that they are of continuing interest to the clinician, it does not
mean that they are useful predictors of future events, a role they
are expected to serve in the forensic setting. A high IQ does not
mean that the person will complete university, a special interest
does not predict a career. Many of these tests have no established
validity beyond concurring with what is already believed.
In many cases, the use of such tests is however, restricted to
licensed psychologists, and it is through the introduction of restricted
tests into custody issues that psychologists have gained a foothold
in the business. It is assumed by many lawyers and judges, as well
as the general public, that these tests are both reliable and valid,
and that they provide necessary information otherwise not unavailable
to the Courts. Many assume that it is for these reasons that they
are invariably used now to determine custody.
Ten years ago, tests were used with either the parent or the child
in 75% of custody evaluations. In a recent survey of custody assessment
practices, Ackerman and Ackerman found almost 90% of psychologists
used tests of both parents and children in custody assessments and
that test administration alone, apart from scoring and interpretation
activities, took an average of 5.2 hrs and that an average of 4.8
tests were administered to children and 4.5 to adults. Many of these
tests are of a general clinical nature, neither designed for or
relevant to custody determinations. The questions to be asked are:
Are these tests valid? Are they necessary? And are they useful predictors
or decision makers? Let's look at the top three, the most popular
and most frequently used tests for each group.
With children, the most frequently used test (54%) is an intelligence
test, usually the WISC-R. While this test is a reliable predictor
of academic performance and can on occasion be used in neurological
assessments, it would seem to have little relevance to the ultimate
issue of custody. Most of us can tell if a child is smart, average
or "slow," and from school reports we can learn of any
problems that the child is encountering. It is difficult to imagine
what additional benefit this test serves in custody cases other
than to increase the billing time of the psychologist.
The second test in order of use is a Thematic Apperception Test
(37%.) It is a misnomer to call this structured interview involving
drawings, a "test." It is one of the projective tools
often used by clinicians. There is no reliable scoring for this
test. It was not designed for this use and the interpretation of
responses is highly subjective and wide open to the theories and
biases of the psychologist.
Finally, the test in third place is the Bricklin Perceptual Scales
(35%) which has no norms by which to judge the responses, lacks
empirical validation, cannot be generalized, can be subject to bias
and has numerous internal inconsistencies (flaws.) It is interesting
that, while it claims to be research-based, its validation has been
assessed by how well it findings concurred with judges' decisions
in cases in which it was used and consequently influenced the judge
(90% agreement.) Either the judges' wisdom was sufficient or its
unreliable findings influenced judges. But it sells! It is described
by its creator as the premiere custody evaluation test in use today
and has been used over 125,000 times at a minimum administration
cost of $13.20 US for a profit to the developer of $1.65 million.
With adults, the most popular test is the MMPI and MMPI-2 (92%,
up 20% in the last ten years). This questionnaire of 566 and 567
items, was constructed to assist clinicians in diagnosing mental
illnesses such as major depression, schizophrenia, and hypochondriasis.
The high frequency of usage and the routine use of it by some evaluators
should be of concern to the Courts as numerous authorities, such
as Ackerman and Kane, have questioned its validity and use in custody
evaluations. Yet it is still administered in over 90% of the cases,
probably because it is easily administered and scored, produces
an array of numbers and increases billings.
The second test is the Rorschach, the notorious ink blot test,
administered in 48% of evaluations, up 6% in ten years. Again, it
is a projective test, intended to suggest psychopathology and subject
to the manifold biases and theories of the interpreter. While Exner
tried to structure it by establishing a scoring system for the responses
given, it remains highly questionable as a diagnostic tool, and
any attempt to justify it as useful and relevant in custody issues
And finally, the WAIS-R (43%) is third; the adult intelligence
version of the WISC-R, whose relevance to the ultimate issue is
questionable in almost all cases. Except in cases of mental retardation,
which are readily identifiable, what relevance is there to a finding
that a parent has a greater visual spatial capacity than verbal
abilities? Or, that one parent has a overall IQ of 114, while the
other has an overall score of 107? Should the child go with the
"smarter" parent, or the one with the more similar IQ
profile? Both seem preposterous suggestions.
A third category of tests is that of questionnaires designed specifically
to address the custody question:
ASPECT (Ackerman-Schoendorf Scales for Parent Evaluation
normed to mostly Caucasian, well-educated, married
validity measured by prediction of judges' disposition
fails to address practical assessment questions
risk of misinterpretation
PORT (Perception of Relationships Test)
lack of empirical validation
not address issues of generalizability
allows for deviation from standardized procedure which can
CAP (Child Abuse Potential Inventory)
scores are elevated with handicapped, learning disabled,
or physically ill children
similarity to various categories of people including child
high number of false positives
PCRI (Parent-Child Relationship Inventory)
needs empirical validation
needs further study
PSI (Parenting Stress Index)
because of gender differences, can not compare parents
possible false negatives
I list these tests not to suggest ways to challenge their findings
although these findings deserve to be challenged, but rather to
show that many if not most of the tests used in custody evaluations
are both of questionable validity, particularly when applied to
this population, and of questionable relevance. What they do is
monopolistically corral evaluations for licensed psychologists,
since they are the only ones authorized to administer and interpret
psychological tests, and they beef up the report and boost the number
of billable hours while, through sprinkling the report with numbers,
giving an air or appearance of science to an activity which is actually
highly subjective and value-laden.
The ultimate issue is "who, in the best interest of the child,
will be the best parent to raise this child?" And I would suggest
to you, that the psychologist is not the person to ask. Although
psychologists present an aura of expertise, ethics and objectivity,
there is reason to suspect that they are deficient in all regards.
The APA informs its members that their primary duties are to evaluate
each parents "capacity for parenting," including assessing
the "knowledge, skills and abilities" each has to be a
"good parent," and to assess the relative merits of the
values of the disputing parents. But no where is there any expert
knowledge or scientifically established basis for determining what
this parental knowledge is, whether it is knowing the rules of baseball,
having a higher IQ, or being able to state the developmental stages
of Piaget; or what these skills are, perhaps how to cook an egg,
solve a test puzzle, or help a child to get homework done; or what
these abilities are, maybe to shape behaviour or to pay for college.
There is no data base for this sort of nebulous information, except
in the mind of the individual evaluator. Neither is there any way
to identify the parent with the superior values. As Ziskin writes
regarding one particular case; "Biases may arise out of identification
with or shared value systems with one litigant as contrasted to
another litigant. In this case, there appeared to be shared value
systems between the psychologist and the father, as indicated by
the fact that both had earned Ph.D.s, both are very much achievement
oriented, as indicated by their accomplishments, and, as indicated
by the similarity of their choices of areas of residence (Eastern,
metropolitan) in contrast to the mother's choice of area of residence
(Western, small city.)"
What the Psychology Industry does, in the absence of expertise,
is invite psychologists to rely on and make recommendations based
on their own subjective opinions, personal beliefs and preferred
theories, which almost always involve unfounded and overwhelmingly
speculative predictions. Consequently, as Jay Ziskin writes: "there
is enormous room for the biases of the clinician to operate"
including biases based on unproven theories of child development,
attachment, separation, nurturance, etc., speculative beliefs about
the impact of certain parent characteristics on children, the appropriate
social roles of fathers/men and mothers/women, and so on.
One such bias receiving considerable attention currently is that
which upholds the concept of gender differences. The predominant
theme of this belief system is that men are inherently aggressive
and prone to violence, while women are naturally nurturant and inclined
towards peaceful solutions. For over 15 years, I have been particularly
concerned about the influence of the highly suspect conclusions
drawn from gender research. One of the first papers I wrote on this
topic was entitled: "Blaming the Boys: A Feminist Fallacy."
What I was seeing then, and continue to see now, was the abuse of
science and professional status to promote gender stereotypes. Under
the pretence that the notions contained are factual, accurate portrayals
of reality, these factions of our society are influencing the thinking
of everyone, including parents, lawyers, psychologists and judges.
There are violent men, there are abusive husbands and fathers. But
there are, also, violent women, there are abusive wives and mothers.
Justice, as a system, is meant to enter into matters with an open
While most biases are not as explicit, reports by psychologists
frequently display bias or preset preferences, with subsequent data
gathered from observations, interviews and testing, being used to
support the already forgone conclusions. It is not unusual to hear
lawyers, when discussing "experts" in this area, saying
such things as: "She always sides with the mother" or
"it's hard to get him to recommend joint custody." Such
comments not only support the prejudiced nature of these expert
reports but they also show that the "best interests of the
child" is being placed below "the best beliefs of the
psychologist." In this case, which I regret is the more common
case, the child can suffer while the psychologist profits. As Melton
et al. state in one of the most often cited articles: "Indeed,
there is probably no forensic question on which overreaching by
mental health professionals has been so common and so egregious.
Besides lacking scientific validity, such opinions have often been
based on clinical data that are, on their face, irrelevant to the
legal questions in dispute."
If this is the case, and I do not stand alone in my opinions, then
why, you may ask, does the profession of psychology encourage the
involvement of psychologists in issues of custody and promote its
wares to the ABA and the broader legal community? It's not because
they work; in fact I know of no longitudinal study that evaluates
the accuracy of psychological predictions regarding the best interests
of the child. It's not because there is no one else to do it, for
it has long been and continues to be, the responsibility of judges
to make decisions in the best interest of the child. It is because
it pays and pays well. In fact, a US survey showed that the average
fee for an evaluation has tripled in the past 10 years to an average
of $3168, with almost 50% of the time being indirect or "soft"
Section 15 evaluations are business: Big Business!
So here I will end my rendition of what, at the beginning, I described
as 'a disturbing reality." A prominent Toronto psychologist
has dismissed my concerns, calling my book, MANUFACTURING VICTIMS,
"The Ripley's Believe It Or Not of Psychology." However,
I doubt that these concerns can be so easily dismissed. The endnotes
in my book, which number about 1,000, cite material which is neither
obscure nor merely freaks of nature. And, once again, I invite you
to scrutinize my sources and, as I end, I express my hope that you
1. Scrupulously analyse any custody report that lands on your desk,
looking not only for corroborating evidence, but, also, for possible
contamination by the Psychology Industry. This contamination can
take place, not only through biassed interviewing and interpreting,
but also through the inappropriate use of tests and the uncorroborated
comments or accusations of one party against the other.
2. Hold the psychologist responsible for the procedure and limitations
as well as the conclusions. Section 12 of the "Guidelines for
Child Custody Evaluations in Divorce Proceedings" states that
the psychologist interprets any data from interviews or tests as
well as any questions of data reliability and validity, cautiously
and conservatively. The psychologist strives to acknowledge to the
court any limitations in methods or data. Make sure they do.
3. Do what you can to stop the Justice System from deferring decisions
to experts who have little or no expertise and from being used as
a cash cow for the Psychology Industry. That would put the determination
back on the shoulders of parents and judges; parents to make the
best argument they can, and judges to use their wisdom to make the
best call they can. This would reduce the power of money to overwhelm
the courts with paid experts and thereby influence Judges' decisions.
There is concern that this would sometimes leave parents caught
in the trap of the prejudice of some judges. But left alone, without
the support of expert opinion, these judges would expose their biases
and perhaps force the law to become more explicit and practical
about what does have weight in custody determinations.
Finally, I conclude with one quote:
One waits in vain for psychologists to state the limits of
A few weeks ago, I heard from Noam Chomsky, the renowned MIT professor
of linguistics, and his letter ended with the statement: "I'm
sure we'll continue to 'wait in vain.' Too many careers at stake."
And sadly, that may be true. I have been waiting a very long time
and now I look to people outside my profession, and especially to
lawyers, to set limits on the Psychology Industry.