“However, child custody evaluations have entirely skipped this crucial step in the assessment process. Child custody evaluations are supposedly assessing two key constructs of family functioning:
The best interest of the child.
Yet neither of these key constructs is operationally defined in the custody evaluation procedures.
The failure to operationally define the key constructs that are being assessed by child custody evaluations leads to a fundamentally and fatally flawed assessment in which the evaluator is allowed to make up his or her own idiosyncratic definition of these constructs, which introduces into the assessment process the inherent biases of the individual evaluator. Different evaluators will have differing interpretations and definitions for the key constructs of “parental capacity” and “best interests of the child,” leading to differing conclusions and recommendations from different evaluators.”
I teach a graduate level course in assessment. Professional assessment begins with first defining the construct to be assessed.
For example, if we seek to create an assessment for intelligence, we must first define what we mean by the construct of “intelligence.”
If we are creating an assessment for self-esteem, we must first define what we mean by the construct of “self-esteem.”
The professional process of developing an assessment procedure BEGINS with defining the construct to be assessed.
In professional psychology, defining the construct to be assessed is called developing an “operational definition” for the construct. For example, do we define intelligence as the amount of knowledge a person has, or is intelligence an approach to reasoning and solving problems? Or both? Based on our operational definition of the construct, we then develop an approach to assessing for that definition of the construct.
If we define intelligence as…
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