Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version

March 1997


Published in Child Abuse & Neglect, Vol. 21, No. 3 (1997), pp. 295–308. Copyright © 1997 Elsevier Science Ltd. Used by permission.


The study investigates the influence of access to information of a history of physical maltreatment on the evaluative responding of social service and clinical psychology professionals. Written vignettes were used in a 2 × 2 × 2 factorial design to manipulate the: (a) presence/absence of abuse history; (b) presence/absence of behavior problems; and (c) gender of the child. Professionals rated children presented in 12 case vignettes along five treatment-related dimensions: (a) overall adjustment; (b) predicted 6 month temporal stability of behavior; (c) likelihood of treatment referral; (d) expected home intervention success; and (e) expected school intervention success. Four dimensions related to social functioning were also rated, including likelihood of the child being: (a) recommended to serve as assistant to teacher; (b) elected as a school activity team leader; (c) elected as a class officer; and (d) nominated as a candidate for successful completion of a summer camp program. The findings verified the influence of information related to a history of maltreatment on professional judgments, despite matched vignette content for all factors other than maltreatment status. The results suggests a possible failure to recognize that some children have been buffered from the negative effects of abuse and point to the risk of erroneous judgments that may be directed toward maltreated children.