Information-Search and Decision-Making by Professionals and Nonprofessionals in Cases of Alleged Child-Abuse and Maltreatment

Rami Benbenishty, Dan Segev, Tami Surkis, Tali Elias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The aim of this study is to identify the ways in which decision-makers search for information and use it to reach their risk-assessments and their recommendations of whether to remove children from home. We compare the decision-making process of social work professionals, social work trainees and nonprofessionals, and we assess how they are influenced by information on physical abuse to the child. We used three convenience samples of 100 respondents each: certified social workers working toward their second degree, social work trainees, and students in the B.A. program in the School of Business Administration. We provided subjects with minimal referral information on a case of alleged child abuse or maltreatment and asked them to make initial judgments and recommendations on the case. We then presented a list of available additional information cues about the case. We traced what the information cues were that the respondents looked for. We manipulated the information provided to respondents: one version described physical signs of abuse and the other did not. We found that information on signs of physical abuse had significant impact on risk-judgments, removal recommendations and information search patterns. There were significant differences between the three groups in their assessment of risk and recommendations for removal. Furthermore, there were certain differences in the ways they selected information. Nonprofessionals tended to assess higher risk, recommend removal, and were influenced by information on physical abuse more than the other two groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Social Service Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 17 Oct 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Decision making
  • Information search
  • Judgment


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