Written by attorney Peter Christopher Lomtevas

Psychobabble and Psychological Testing: Custodial Evaluation Manipulation - The "Tests"

Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory II (MMPI-II)

This is the most familiar among the psychological tests administered in custodial family court cases today. However, its objective is to fish for the subject’s personality disorders – a subject outside the scope of evidence needed in a custodial family court case. There are 567 true-false questions which will fatigue a well rested subject. There is also a mechanism to determine whether the subject is being “evasive" in his answers. This feature of “evasiveness" has a separate purpose of impeaching the words of a litigant – often the father in a case of an initial award of custody. This is a test of comparisons. The subject’s answers are compared to those of an unknown control subject (not a party to the action) so the outcome is not based upon the subject’s own mental processes but rather as compared to those of others.

The interpreted outcomes of the MMPI-II are phrased thus: "The test results place subject X in this group of patients who, statistically-speaking, reacted similarly. The test results also set subject X apart from these groups of people who, statistically-speaking, responded differently". The test results would never say: "Subject X suffers from (this or that) mental health problem."

However, court appointed psychologists almost universally use the MMPI to arrive at a finding of “narcissism" which requires a referral to a “therapist" for “extensive treatment" for a price.

We will now examine the scales on this test.

Scale 1 (AKA the Hypochondriasis Scale): Measures a person's perception and preoccupation with their health and health issues.

Scale 2 (AKA the Depression Scale): Measures a person's depressive symptoms level.

Scale 3 (AKA the Hysteria Scale): Measures the emotionality of a person.

Scale 4 (AKA the Psychopathic Deviate Scale): Measures a person's need for control or their rebellion against control.

Scale 5 (AKA the Femininity/Masculinity Scale): Measures a stereotype of a person and how they compare. For men it would be the Marlboro man, for women it would be June Cleaver or Donna Reed.

Scale 6 (AKA the Paranoia Scale): Measures a person's inability to trust.

Scale 7 (AKA the Psychasthenia Scale): Measures a person's anxiety levels and tendencies.

Scale 8 (AKA the Schizophrenia Scale): Measures a person's unusual/odd cognitive, perceptual, and emotional experiences,

Scale 9 (AKA the Mania Scale): Measures a person's energy.

Scale 0 (AKA the Social Introversion Scale): Measures whether people enjoy and are comfortable being around other people.

There is nothing here that applies to families and children here as the purpose of a custodial psychological evaluation in family court is to measure the fit between the child and either parent, not to determine mental illness in the form of a personality disorder. Hence, this test’s results as all of the others are irrelevant in a family court proceeding.

Some psychologist opine, with absolutely no separate validation, for example that a parent was suffered from a lack of “openness and cooperativeness". This is because the typical evaluation takes place in a sterile office with the subjects taking tests. The score sheets are typically never produced in court and the grading device could be a stencil sheet or just simply the subjective opinion of the evaluator. So if the evaluator wants to impeach the credibility of a parent, the expert will administer a test that pulls for mental dysfunction and then label the parent as being evasive when the parent fails to respond as if he was mentally ill.

Symptom Checklist 90-Revised

This test measures the following scales: SOM - Somatization, O-C - Obsessive-Compulsive, I-S - Interpersonal Sensitivity, DEP - Depression, ANX - Anxiety, HOS - Hostility, PHOB - Phobic Anxiety, PAR - Paranoid Ideation, PSY – Psychoticism. Typically, the psychologist will use this test to opine that a parent’s "Symptomatic Distress Levels" are average. This test’s results may plant into the mind of the reader that the subject’s mental processes are normal and his statements are factual.

Achenbach System of Empirically Based Assessment

A key abuse of psychological testing is that the psychologist fails to “empirically validate" the findings from a test. This simply means that the psychologist is too lazy to go out and see for himself how the subject actually behaves in the open. So, for example, if a test reveals an obsessive ritualistic personality, a visual observation of a depressed subject would invalidate the findings. This means that testing carries at least two components: 1. the test and its interpretation, and 2. visual observation to see whether the findings bear out.

This test attempts to introduce empirical validation as a part of the testing process – perhaps to correct erring psychologists who principally rely on testing only. Its components are:

Child Behavior Check List (CBCL): Completed by parents, for children aged 6-18.

Teacher's Report Form (TRF): Completed by teachers of children aged 6-18.

Youth Self-Report (YSR): Completed by children aged 11-18.

Here, one has to watch out that the correct test was administered to the correct participant. If the psychologist is properly trained to administer this test, it may be of some value in a non-clinical context.

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