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FAQ's About Family Interactional Assessments

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  1. What is an Interactional assessment and how is it used?
  2. How is an Interactional assessment conducted?
  3. How long does an Interactional assessment take and when will a report be completed?


What is an Interactional assessment and how is it used?

The methodology of Interactional assessments was pioneered by C. Henry Kempe and colleagues in the 1970's as a means to understand disturbed mother-infant relationships in cases of non-organic failure to thrive.  By the middle to late 1980's, Clare Haynes-Seman, Ph.D. a developmental psychologist, and Joan Suziki-Hart, M.S.W., and other colleagues had continued to refine the protocol for use in cases of suspected abuse and neglect involving children of all ages. 

Theoretically the assessment protocol is grounded in attachment, child development, and family systems theories.  The development of family relationships and attachment styles as this affects the children within the family is the focus of the protocol.

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How is an Interactional assessment conducted?

The methodology is consistent from evaluation to evaluation.  The assessment begins with a reunion sequence which is followed by a period of free play.  The evaluator joins the family and begins the interview of the parents with the children present.  Questions elicit information about the parents' recollection and perceptions of each child and development of the relationships within the family.  Parental philosophies, attitudes, and beliefs about childrearing are systematically explored.  The parents' are encouraged to share their ideas about their involvement with social services and the purpose of the evaluation, and any concerns they may have about their children.  It's a comprehensive interview that is carefully designed for one question to build upon another.   Observation of the parent-child interaction occurs throughout the process; parents are encouraged to take care of the children regardless of the interview.  A snack is provided about halfway through the process.  There is a theoretical construct underlying every component of the assessment.

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How long does an Interactional assessment take and when will a report be completed?

The whole process is videotaped and takes approximately two to three hours.  The tape is analyzed and often transcribed, about three to four hours of review for each hour of tape.  It is about 20-25 hours by the time the report is completed.  It is most useful early in cases to get a handle on what is going on in order to plan and coordinate treatment, although many times interactions are used in termination cases, too. Coordination of information from the Interactional with psychological evaluation can be very helpful if the psychologist can interweave parenting styles and behaviors with psychological findings.   Social Services' records as well as any other records available are reviewed in context of evaluation data.

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If you have further questions, or if you are interested in utilizing our Psychological Evaluation Services, please contact our main office by phone 303-432-2298, FAX 303-432-2297, e-mail or by mail:7651 W. 41st,   Avenue, Ste.# 200, Wheat Ridge 80033


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This page last update: 10/04/02