Decision making in social work with families and children: developing decision-aids compatible with cognition

Lilian De Bortoli, Margaret Catherine Dolan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Social work practice occurs under difficult circumstances and often involves using incomplete, conflicting and inaccurate information to carry out complex assessments. Personal and organisational factors impact upon practitioner perceptions and work practices may contribute to errors associated with biased judgement. In the field of social work with families and children, poor decisions have been associated with child injuries and deaths. To assist with decision making, most practitioners adopt either consensus decision-aids, which focus upon the practitioner s intuitive cognitive mode, or actuarial decision-aids, which focus upon the analytical cognitive mode. Modern cognitive theory suggests that these cognitive modes function in tandem - a finding that has led to the development of a third aid, Structured Professional Judgement (SPJ). We discuss the advantages associated with SPJ such as the increased transparency of decision making, the ability of practitioners to identify and manage uncertainty and use emotions in clinical judgement. Given the success of SPJ in forensic psychology, we believe SPJ is more likely to optimise decision making in social work practice with families and children and produce superior outcomes
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2142 - 2160
Number of pages19
JournalThe British Journal of Social Work
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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