Rationales Provided for Risk Assessments and for Recommended Interventions in Child Protection: A Comparison between Canadian and Israeli Professionals

Rami Benbenishty, Rujla Osmo, Nora Gold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


This paper describes the structure and content of rationales given by social work professionals for risk assessments and recommendations they make with regard to cases of children at risk. We compare professionals in Canada and in Israel. We used convenience samples of 52 social workers from Israel and 67 from Canada. The participants reviewed a case vignette, indicated their assessment of risk and their recommended intervention. They provided rationales for their risk assessment and recommendation. We analysed the structure and content of these rationales. We used Toulmin's (Toulmin et al., 1984) framework to analyse the structure of arguments, and Rosen's (1994) categories were used to classify the content of their rationales. We found that most workers provided basic level arguments but did not supply complementary level arguments (missing in particular were qualifying and rebuttals). Workers said that they relied mostly on theory, general knowledge, and experience. They rarely mentioned values or policy as the foundations of their claims, and never cited empirical knowledge in the backing up of their arguments. Canadian and Israeli workers shared similar patterns. The most striking differences were that Canadian workers tended to mention theory and experience more than the Israelis who tended to mention general knowledge to back up their arguments. Canadian workers also used fewer warrants, backing responses, and qualifiers to support their claims. The limitations of the study and its implications for training and education are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-155
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2003
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully acknowledge the Halbert Center for Canadian Studies at the Hebrew University for providing the funding for this research. The authors wish to thank all the practitioners who contributed their valuable time and shared with us their thoughts. We gratefully acknowledge the contributions made by Loren Wolfsfeld, MSW.


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