College of Psychology: Faculty Articles

Title

Psychological assessment of sexually abused children for legal evaluation and expert witness testimony

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

10-1-1990

Publication Title

Professional Psychology : Research and Practice

ISSN

0735-7028

Volume

21

Issue/No.

5

Abstract

This article presents the theory and practice behind the psychological assessment of sexually abused children using the posttraumatic stress disorder subcategories for abused children. Measurement of cognitive disturbances including intrusive recollections of the trauma, affective disturbances by simultaneously experienced high arousal and high avoidance symptoms, and observable behavioral changes are described, and practical approaches including case examples are presented. Included in this article is a discussion about the different standards of legal proof that psychologists must meet in the various kinds of child sexual abuse cases that they might be called upon to consult. Psychologists need to know basic child development and have the assessment skills to measure it as well as specialized training in the field of child abuse to avoid the perils of becoming overinvolved in these emotional cases.

DOI

10.1037/0735-7028.21.5.344