Date of Completion

May 2005


Family court judges are often asked to make inferences about - or directly interview children to ascertain - children's custody preferences and their maturity to express such preferences. These estimates of children's developmental maturity are important to the judges' considerations of children's "best interests" in custody cases. The research literature describing family court judges' background, education, training, and knowledge about child development is scant. With appropriate child development knowledge, judges should be better able to identify the developmental stages at which children have the cognitive and social capabilities to communicate directly their placement wishes or concerns. The current study is the first to examine judges' estimates of - and actual tests of - their child development knowledge, their training/education, and their application of this knowledge to their decisions to involve children as participants in contested custody cases.