Herman, S. (2005). Improving decision making in forensic child sexual abuse
evaluations. Law and Human Behavior, 29(1), 87-120.


Mental health professionals can assist legal decision makers in cases of allegations of child sexual abuse by collecting data using forensic interviews, psychological testing, and record reviews, and by summarizing relevant findings from social science research. Significant controversy surrounds another key task performed by mental health professionals in most child sexual abuse evaluations, i.e., deciding whether or not to substantiate unconfirmed abuse allegations. The available evidence indicates that, on the whole, these substantiation decisions currently lack adequate psychometric reliability and validity: an analysis of empirical research findings leads to the conclusion that at least 24% of all of these decisions are either false positive or false negative errors. Surprisingly, a reanalysis of existing research also indicates that it may be possible to develop reliable, objective procedures to improve the consistency and quality of decision making in this domain. A preliminary, empirically-grounded procedure for making substantiation decisions is proposed

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