- A Call for Skepticism
Tana Dineen, Ph.D., C.Psych.(Ont.), R.Psych. (B.C.)


Psychologists have become accepted as experts with regards to Family Law matters, including custody, access and parental competence. It is generally assumed that both their methods and their opinions reflect professional expertise which is inherently superior to common sense.
As well, there is a predominant belief that their recommendations are truly in the best interests of the child. Their reports carry weight; they influence judicial decisions.
But, as a psychologist with decades of experience in the profession, I have become more than a touch skeptical. While it may seem heretical to suggest that what my profession offers to the courts may actually be of little value, I no longer hesitate to do so. I encourage people to ask:
How solid is the foundation of knowledge on which the recommendations are based?
How legitimate is the expertise?
Could it be an illusion?
Should their reports carry weight?
Is it possible that judicial decisions would be as good, if not better, without this input?

This presentation will address these and other provocative questions. It will look briefly at the growth of the forensic role of the psychology profession, its use of testing and the nature of its theories. And it will encourage all present to approach what psychology offers with much greater skepticism.

 Association of Family and Conciliation Courts
36th Annual Conference -
June 2-5, 1999, Vancouver, B.C.

Copyrigh t© 1998-2007 Tana Dineen,