A review of "The Custody Evaluation Handbook", by Barry Bricklin, Ph.D., Hardcover, 278 pages, ISBN 0-87630-775-6. Available from Amazon.com at this link: The Custody Evaluation Handbook.
The Custody Evaluation Handbook, by Barry Bricklin, Ph.D. is, as the subtitle states, all about "Research-Based Solutions and Applications". It's likely that this work will become a standard by which custody evaluations themselves are measured.
The Custody Evaluation Handbook is intended for professionals, not for casual readers or for those involved in a custody evaluation. The Handbook contains practical ideas, advice, and methodology for a custody evaluator to use in structuring evaluations. Dr. Bricklin pays particular attention to the concept of collecting useful and relevant data, then determining the importance of the data as it relates to the child. Dr. Bricklin also stresses the importance of sense-based data.
The Handbook is well worth reading for Chapter 3 alone- "Congruent Communications: The Vital Roles of Symbol Systems and Information Processing Strategies". Dr. Bricklin covers this subject in clear, concise language, using practical examples that are readily understood. In short, "an individual's symbol system refers to how he or she assigns meaning to another person's behavior." This can include words, tone of voice, facial expressions, body language, etc.
It may well turn out that differences in people's individual symbol systems could explain the difficulties and eventual failures of many marriages. Dr. Bricklin writes "...when there are marked disparities in how one individual offers information and how the other takes in and utilizes information, prolonged contact between these people will create enormous irritability in both." In plain language, some people truly cannot communicate with each other.
The Custody Evaluation Handbook is chock full of interesting nuggets of information on almost every page. One of the points that comes up in the Handbook concerns some observations Dr. Bricklin makes relating to how boys and girls differ in the effect that divorce has on them. The notes and conclusions are drawn from various custody and family-interaction studies that have been done as well as from his own work. A great many of the studies cited appear to indicate that, in general, divorce is significantly harder on boys than girls, and has more profound and longer lasting negative psychological effects on boys than on girls.
Dr. Bricklin also covers in some detail the series of custody evaluation tests that he and a college, Dr. Gail Elliot, Ph.D. have developed. The tests covered are the Bricklin Perceptual Scales (BPS), the Perceptions-of-Relationships Test (PORT), the Parent Awareness Skills Survey (PASS) and the Parent Perception of Child Profile (PPCP). These tests are not discussed here in detail so as to avoid "contaminating" the general population with inside knowledge of the tests, possibly allowing manipulation of the test results. (It should be noted that most of the tests are designed to be used with children, but several are also applicable to use with adults.)
The BPS, PORT, PASS and PPCP are projective tests, and as such require some interpretation, yet they appear to be quite effective in uncovering information that may be difficult or impossible to draw out from a child without (at least potentially) biasing the results. Validity data for the PORT and BPS now exist on about 4,000 cases, and the tests appear to have a 90% validity rate, a good track record by nearly any measure.
The Custody Evaluation Handbook would be a valuable addition to any custody evaluator's bookshelf. Although not intended for the general public, non-professionals could still benefit by reading it.
Because its Usefulness to participants in a custody battle is limited, we rate "The Custody Evaluation Handbook" as a 2-star resource (on a scale of 1 to 5).