Forensic psychology is a heterogeneous field of knowledge. The current paper examines seven research articles that elaborate on various aspects of forensic psychology. The historical development of the discipline from the middle of the 19th century until the 21st century is presented. It is reasonable to distinguish between forensic psychology in broad and narrow senses. The former may include all common aspects of psychology and law, while the latter refers only to the clinical setting only. Various aspects of clinical assessment in the child forensic setting are discussed. Practitioners should try to minimize the level of anxiety within the minimum possible amount of time.
Interviewer and child gender may affect the results of interviews. In such way, the possibility of bias and the correct interview questions may be determined. There are no universal techniques or indicators for assessing the cases of sexual abuse. However, the existing diversity plays a positive role in the overall development of forensic psychology. The diagnostic aspects of providing the forensic services are examined. The presence of ADHD is crucial for the recidivism in the future. If all disorders are evaluated, the probability of the correct diagnosis increases substantially.
The problem of children’s rights is examined. It is reasonable to take into consideration the degree of their rationality and ability to make responsible actions and decisions. It is necessary to use different ethical standards in relation to children and their parents as they have different capabilities and obligations. The revised NICHD protocols have comparative advantage as they change the entire structure of communication between children and interviewers. The provided analysis has contributed to a better understanding of the key forensic psychology principles.
Nowadays, forensic psychology experiences a rapid development due to the growing theoretical and practical interest. The reason is that there is a need for introducing the reliable analytical elements from psychology in the judicial and other related spheres. The current paper examines and summarizes the relevant articles in the field. The positions of authors will be presented and analyzed. In general, the field of forensic psychology faces numerous challenges, but they can be resolved effectively if the proper methodological basis is used.
Brigham (1999) tries to define the essence of forensic psychology. The author demonstrates that the first applications of psychological theories to legal problems were observed in the middle of the 19th century. More systematic attempts of utilizing the latest achievements in the theory of psychology in the legal field were made in the beginning of the 20th century (Brigham, 1999, p. 275). Several well-recognized psychologists and psychoanalysts, such as Freud, advised to use the knowledge of psychology in the legal sphere. It could allow understanding the basic motives of suspects and optimize the process of investigation.
The author also suggests that it is reasonable to distinguish between forensic psychology in broad and narrow senses. The former refers to the whole set of questions of psychology and law, while the latter refers to the use of psychology in the context of clinical and practice issues (Brigham, 1999, p. 279). Such classification seems to be reasonable and allows applying the basic concepts of forensic psychology to a large variety of issues. Considering the fact that the field of forensic psychology is very specific, there is a need for training forensic psychologists in a systematic way. It is possible to introduce forensic psychology in numerous clinical graduate programs. However, the major attention should be paid to qualitative rather than quantitative aspect. The proper training of psychologists can be highly beneficial for the entire society in the long perspective.
Brown and Dean (2002) examine the problem of a clinical assessment in the child forensic setting. The authors state that the need for such assessment demonstrates that tension exists, and it is reasonable to facilitate the positive dynamics. The authors try to determine the intervention value of their initiatives providing the comprehensive psychological assessment of various cases in one of the clinics in Australia (Brown & Dean, 2002, p. 289). Both children and their families face a variety of complex psychological issues and challenges. For such reason, it may be problematic to determine the most effective form of intervention.
The authors state that one of the major objectives that should be solved by clinicians in the short perspective is minimizing the level of anxiety experienced by the patients. They should demonstrate that the necessary standards of care will be provided, and patients will experience the gradual improvement of their physical and mental state (Brown & Dean, 2002, p. 289). The long-term positive changes are positive only if the potential of the entire family is realized. For such reason, professionals should orient on the patients’ families and affect the behavior of family members properly. If the optimal environment for patients is created, then the treatment results and interventions may become more effective, especially in the long perspective.
The authors believe that forensic psychology is the optimal option in such context as it allows integrating the major theoretical achievements with the practical orientation to the patients’ needs (Brown & Dean, 2002, p. 292). On the one hand, specialists should possess the highest qualification and understand all psychological aspects that can be relevant and crucial in various situations and potential cases. On the other hand, they should be able to adjust such broad principles to specific situations and apply them correctly. The proper balance between the general understanding of psychological issues and specific needs of children and their parents should be achieved.
Lamb and Garretson (2003) examine the potential effects of interviewer gender and child gender on reliability and informativeness regarding the sexual abuse of victims in forensic interviews. The authors used a variety of practical cases from three countries to verify their hypothesis about the significance of the genders of both interviewers and children. They utilized the information on victims in age from 4 to 14 years (Lamb & Garretson, 2003, p. 157). The provided analysis confirms the initial hypothesis. Moreover, the empirical facts demonstrate that both the gender of interviewers and that of victims impact the ultimate results significantly.
Female interviewers demonstrated different modes of behavior and strategies when communicating with boys in comparison with that used for girls. In communication with boys they selected more invitations and more suggestive questions in comparison with the girls (Lamb & Garretson, 2003, p. 157). Such pattern was observed in all countries under investigation, and the differences identified were statistically significant. Male interviewers did not demonstrate such differences, and they used the same patterns and modes of behavior when communicating both with boys and girls. They asked the same questions and utilized the same style.
Even more significant differences were observed among children. Gender appeared to play more significant role in such regard. Girls were more open for communicating with female interviewers than with the male ones. They were open to presenting more details and information when communicating with female interviewers. Boys did not demonstrate such differences, and they provided the same responses and details to the interviewers regardless of their gender. The older girls were more responsive to option-posing questions, while younger children were more open to providing information responding to suggestive prompts by the interviewers of the opposite gender (Lamb & Garretson, 2003, p. 157). Consequently, such information may allow organizing the process of conducting interviews more effectively and rationally.
Gava and Dell’Aglio (2013) elaborate on the optimal techniques that may be used while providing the complex forensic psychological examinations of sexual abuse cases. The authors state that there is no universal or widely accepted protocol for such evaluations. It is often reasonable to combine the semi-structured interviews with the use of software for qualitative analysis. The results show that a high degree of diversity is observed regarding forensic examination practice. The authors believe that psychological tests may be used for identifying the personality profiles, as well as indirect indicators of abuse (Gava & Dell’Aglio, 2013, p. 365). At the same time, they recognize that psychological tests are not the perfect tool for analysis and should be combined with other methods.
Gava and Dell’Aglio (2013) evaluate the existing diversity positively as it contributes to the rapid development of theoretical basis in a given field. All indicators of abuse have their strengths and weaknesses, and professionals should aim at determining the proper balance and combination of available methods rather than searching for the single and universal indicator. It is also reasonable to construct several alternative hypotheses and verify them relying on the available statistical facts. In such way, experts may determine the social value of different hypotheses in a given case. All assessment indicators and techniques should always be adjusted according to the characteristics of the victims and other relevant aspects of the analyzed case.
Lindsay et al. (2009) investigate the diagnostic aspects that are crucial in providing forensic services. The authors examine the major characteristics of children and the possibility of recidivism in the future. The obtained results demonstrate that the existence of any problem in childhood leads to a higher probability of similar problems in adulthood. It shows that unresolved psychological problems tend to increase over time and may lead to even more serious consequences in the future. The authors examined the cases of more than 300 individuals. Some of them were accepted for forensic services. The further analysis shows that ADHD and conduct disorders were highly widespread in both groups, while autistic disorders were rare (Lindsay et al, 2009, p. 19). Therefore, the authors claim that ADHD-related issues should be addressed primarily during the assessment. In such way, the provision of forensic services can be optimized, and the relevant social and economic implications can be formulated.
Melton (1982) evaluates the problem of children’s rights. The author demonstrates the traditional position that the interests of children and parents are complementary. He also states that children’s participation in the decisions regarding family affairs is not always necessary or even desirable. In general, the ethical analysis should be different in relation to children and parents. They have different obligations, knowledge, and capacities. For such reason, the assessment of their actions should also be different. The author states that all ethical considerations about the involvement of children in decision-making should be empirical (Melton, 1982, p. 534). It means that no universal standards can be developed in such regard.
The author also stresses the need for the proper integration of ethical and legal issues in the context of children’s rights. The major difficulties are associated with the need for evaluating the children’s rationality and ability of making responsible decisions regarding their future (Melton, 1982, p. 534). If children’s abilities are limited, then their participation in decision-making should also decrease, and it should not be considered as the violation of their rights. The quality of life should also be considered while examining children’s rights. If their decisions allow increasing the quality of their lives, they should have more weight and vice versa. In any case, all universal principles should be adjusted to children’s needs and mental capacities.
Hershkowitz, Lamb, and Katz (2014) compare different types of protocols while investigating the cases of forensic child abuse. In particular, they evaluate the characteristics of the standard and revised NICHD protocols. The evaluation was based on the same initial and basic criterion: improving the rapport between interviewers and children. More than 400 hundred victims were interviewed for conducting the study. The obtained results demonstrate that the revised NICHD protocols show much higher characteristics than the standard ones. The results are statistically significant and reliable. The allegation rates while using the revised NICHD protocols have increased dramatically (Hershkowitz, Lamb, & Katz, 2014, p. 342).
The better rapport was also associated with a higher degree of emotional support delivered to children by interviewers. The well-designed supportive environment allows minimizing children’s anxiety and psychological problems (Hershkowitz, Lamb, & Katz, 2014, p. 342). As a result, the revised NICHD protocols change the entire structure of communication between children and interviewers. The sense of children’s self-efficacy is promoted, and it leads to higher informativeness. Thus, social and emotional factors should be well-integrated during the implementation of a given method.
The authors also suggest that it is reasonable to investigate the hypothesis about the possibility of false allegations. Further research is needed in the field, and a higher number of participants may be necessary. The authors’ study has proved that there is a significant relation between the practice used by interviewers and children’s desire of making allegations of abuse. Some selection bias is possible in the research due to the use of a quasi-experimental design (Hershkowitz, Lamb, & Katz, 2014, p. 342). However, it may serve as a foundation for further studies. The major research problem is determining the reliability of allegations discovered through the use of the revised NICHD protocols.
It may be concluded that forensic psychology includes a large number of important and interrelated issues. The analysis and investigation of above articles allow understanding of the major current trends and implications for forensic psychologists. Psychology can be highly useful for legal experts, especially in the context of understanding people’s motivations and responses. It is reasonable to distinguish between forensic psychology in broad and narrow senses. During the assessment procedures, clinicians and other professionals should aim at minimizing the anxiety levels. Interviewer and child genders may lead to biased results, and such impact should be considered in advance.
There is a high variety of methods used during forensic psychological examinations of sexual abuse cases. It contributes to the development of forensic psychology and emergence of innovations in the sphere. The diagnostic process may improve if necessary attention is paid to ADHD-related issues. Their presence leads to a higher probability of recidivism in the future. The degree of children’s rights should be determined according to their rationality and ability to make responsible decisions. The quality of life issues should also be considered. The revised NICHD protocols demonstrate much higher rates of allegations. The existing causal relations in a given area should be examined further. In general, the analysis of the above studies demonstrates the major issues and problems of forensic psychology. Consequently, it is reasonable to integrate all the aspects into the complex system properly.