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Critical-thinking skills and decision-making abilities of investigators of child abuse cases Mandel, David Robert


Dramatic increases in the number of reported cases of child abuse have necessitated attempts to improve front-line workers' investigative skills. This study examined the relation between investigators' critical-thinking skills and decision-making abilities in the context of a hypothetical scenario of a reported case of child abuse, and explored the relations between these two investigative abilities and general reasoning skills, job-related beliefs, and personality dimensions. As part of a 3-day interviewing and credibility assessment workshop, 150 respondents completed a survey, providing their reasons for their disagreement/agreement with a premature intervention made in a scenario of a reported case of child abuse. Accounting for 48% of the variability in investigators' decisions, higher levels of critical thinking and lower levels of perceived responsibility for ensuring a child's safety in a reported case of child abuse significantly predicted stronger disagreement with the premature intervention. Accounting for 17% of the variability in investigators' levels of critical thinking, (a) sex, (b) beliefs about the percentage of reported cases of child abuse that, in general, are true, and (c) levels of hostility emerged as significant predictors, such that being female, estimating a relatively low percentage of true cases, and being relatively less hostile were predictive of higher levels of critical thinking. No significant differences in investigative abilities were found between investigators and other non-investigative professionals. Implications and suggestions for future research are discussed.

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