In separation and divorce proceedings where there are minors, it is generally common practice seek the intervention of a forensic psychology professional to explore the parents’ parenting abilities.
But… what exactly are they? How is parental capacity or incapacity determined? How is it objectified?
The importance of family context in physical and psychological development
Despite the diversity of definitions of the family construct, most authors agree that it becomes the core where most learning takes place through the relationships that are established between the systems that compose itthat is, the parental system and the filial system. Just as the main goal of this last system is to develop, the parental system must ensure the proper maturation of children by accompanying them in their process of individuation.
However, for such accompaniment to be given properly, it is not enough to meet basic needs such as food or hygienebut parents need specific skills and abilities that can contain their children’s anxieties and also meet their nutritional, educational, socialization and protection needs, i.e.:
- Offer sensory, emotional and affective experiences that allow children to build secure bonds (nutritional needs).
- Promote learning and cognitive development, giving priority to the autonomy of minors (educational needs).
- Let them model how to feel, think, do and relate by example, as all of this will affect how children feel, think, act and relate (socialization needs).
- That they offer adequate protection to minors from external, family and social contexts that can directly harm them or alter their process of maturation, growth and development (Protection needs).
To carry out the task of responding effectively to all these needs, parents must be able to bond appropriately with their childrenbe able to mentalize their emotional states, be sensitive and approachable and engage in their emotional attention.
In the same way, they must know how to apply positive discipline, guide and guide the little ones, while promoting learning and offering guarantees of physical, emotional and social security. They must be competent.
Thus, parenting competence is the collection of personal abilities and skills which, when applied correctly, promote the multidimensional care, protection and nurturing of children, ensuring their healthy physical, cognitive, social, emotional and personal development.
Thus, the use of the cognitive, emotional, psychological and social style characteristic of the parents in each situation, will become their competence to exercise a parenting which can be healthy or ineffective depending on the quality of these particularities.
How is this skill assessed?
Since the parents received specific care from their own parents, the idiosyncratic characteristics of each parent must be taken into account when assessing parenting abilities, as well as your personal history in relation to the ties woven in your family of origin.
To this end, an anamnesis interview is carried out which collects information on the educational styles received in childhood, the attachment relationships experienced in the family of origin, the evolutionary history of the person evaluated and the most most relevant to his life trajectory. . Of course, according to what the forensic medicine professional deems appropriate in each case, he will deepen aspects such as binding, educational, psychopathological, sanitary, etc.
In addition to this essential analysis, a thorough psychological examination will be required to determine the emotional state of caregiversas well as the personal characteristics and / or psychopathologies that could exist, allowing to determine if these can interfere negatively when exercising their parenthood.
The importance of objectivity
As a peculiarity of the forensic field, it should be noted that, as well as in the field of clinical care, the knowledge of the ontogeny of the individual and his personal characteristics through the clinical interview could be sufficient, for the forensic assessment of parental capacity, it is necessary that the above be objectifiedso that another professional, if necessary, can replicate the analysis carried out.
That is why psychometric instruments of proven reliability and validity are administered which will assess parenthood through various indicators such as the level of knowledge that parents have on how to act in certain critical events that occur in the daily care of children, their ability to propose and use effective solutions adapted to each situation, their ability to recognize children’s feelings in different contexts and their communicative potential, adjusting their expressions to the level of children’s understanding.
Although parenting skills are of the utmost importance given the impact they have on the development and well-being of minors, in separations and divorces where there is a high level of conflict between adults. it is common for these skills and abilities to be severely impaired.
Moreover, the confrontation between the two can end up eclipsing and blurring the relevance of parenting competence, even questioning the ability of parents as a means of gaining some kind of advantage in custody and custody of children.
All of this makes it essential to emphasize the importance of forensic psychological assessment of parenting abilities, help differentiate the roles that adults play in the parental system and in the marital system.
- Barudy, J. & Dantagnan, M. (2010). The invisible challenges of being a father or a mother. Gedisa.
- Online Bricklin, B. (1995). The Custody Assessment Manual. Research-based solutions and applications. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
- Gómez, E. & Muñoz, M. (2014). Positive parenting scale. E2P. Children’s Ideas Foundation. Pinto, C., Sangüesa, P. & Silva, G. (2012). Parenting skills: an integrated view of theoretical and methodological approaches. Electronic journal of psychology, 24.
- OnlineRosich, C. (2001). What is the family? In: Perez Testor, C. comp. (2001). The family: new contributions. Barcelona: Edebé-Blanquerna (Innova Universitas).