Marc J. Ackerman, Ph.D. and Kathleen Schoendorf, Psy.D.
ASPECT is a clinical tool that will help you make more objective child custody recommendations. Easy to use and interpret, ASPECT offers a practical, standardised and defensible approach to child custody evaluations. It draws information from a variety of sources, reducing the likelihood of examiner bias. It incorporates standard assessment tools that many clinicians already use. It yields a quantitative score that gives you an objective basis for child custody decisions.
For each parent, ASPECT produces an overall score, the Parental Custody Index (PCI), which guides custody decisions. The PCI tells you which parent is more effective, and quantifies by how much more. If neither parent is effective, the PCI will reflect that as well.
ASPECT also yields three scale scores:
- Observational (the parent's appearance and presentation)
- Social (the parent's interaction with others, including the child)
- Cognitive-Emotional (the parent's psychological and mental functioning)
Research has shown 90% agreement between ASPECT recommendations and custody decisions made by judges in cases where there was a significant difference between the ASPECT scores of the mother and the father. In addition, ASPECT has differentiated situations in which one parent should obtain full custody from those in which joint custody is appropriate. It has proven effective in identifying parents who need supervision during child visitation.
Consistent with APA Guidelines for Child Custody Evaluations, ASPECT requires the user to employ multiple methods of data gathering. The clinician must answer 56 yes-or-no questions, based on information drawn from the following sources:
- The ASPECT Parent Questionnaire. This self-report inventory is completed by each parent.
- Interview with and observation of each parent, with and without the child. The ASPECT Manual provides basic questions and guidelines regarding content and length.
- Test data. Scores are obtained from tests routinely used for child custody evaluation (e.g., MMPI or MMPI-2, Rorschach, WAIS-R, WRAT-R, or NEAT for parents and Draw-A-Family, CAT or TAT, and an IQ measure for the child. (NOTE: These tests are not included in the ASPECT Kit.)
The ASPECT Manual tells you which information to use in responding to each of the 56 questions. So there's no guesswork. You are assured that the same evaluative criteria are applied to both parents.
The ASPECT Short Form
A convenient Short Form, the ASPECT-SF is ideal for clinicians who do not have time to administer all the tests required to score the complete ASPECT. It eliminates items based on responses to the MMPI, Rorschach, Draw-A-Family Test, WRAT-R or NEAT, and WAIS-R. Yet the Short Form predicts judges' orders as accurately as the Full ASPECT so you can use it with the same level of confidence.
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