January 11, 2011

Child abuse assessment: Special issue

Forensic psychologist Eric Mart has guest edited a special issue of the Journal of Psychiatry and the Law on assessment and testimony in cases of child abuse. The articles address both scientific and practical aspects of child abuse assessment, testimony, and research. They include:

Maternal Filicide and Mental Illness in Italy: This retrospective review co-authored by Geoffrey McKee, who has written books on filicide, and Alesandra Bramante compares the forensic characteristics of mothers with and without severe mental illness who killed their children.

Interviewing Immigrant Children for Suspected Child Maltreatment: Lisa Aronson Fontes examines challenges posed in forensic interviews of immigrant children when there is a suspicion that these children may be victims of child abuse or neglect. Suggestions are made
for interviewers regarding the interview setting, preparations, building rapport, conveying respect, narrative training, pacing the interview, and trauma symptoms that may stem from issues unrelated to the abuse.

Persistent Problems with the "Separation Test" in Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy: Munchausen syndrome by proxy remains a controversial diagnosis because information is easily tainted to make the mother appear responsible for her child’s symptoms. Loren Pankratz critiques (and offers alternatives to) the “separation test,” a scientifically problematic procedure that is often used to gather evidence against the mother.

Common Errors in the Assessment of Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse: Finally, the special issue editor himself tackles common errors in the complex, challenging, and high-stakes undertaking of assessing CSA allegations. After reviewing frequent causes of substandard investigations, the illustrious Dr. Mart provides ideas for research-based methods to improve the situation.

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