Social workers are called upon as expert witnesses to assess risk to children and recommend interventions. It is hypothesized that risk assessments and decisions are influenced by the risk-to-child as well as personal attitudes and biases. We examined the role of the ethnic origin, religiosity, and child gender on assessments and recommendation. Methods: The current study used a survey-based balanced crossover experimental design. One hundred and twenty Israeli social workers responded to case descriptions of ambiguous risk cases of children from low socioeconomic status families. Design was based on eight vignettes. Manipulated factors included child’s gender, family religiosity, and ethnic origin. Participants assessed the child risk level and reported placement recommendation. Results: Male, ultraorthodox-Jewish child of Mizrahi origin had higher likelihood for risk assessment. Risk assessment predicted placement recommendation. Implications: Social workers tend to perceive child’s male gender, ultrareligiosity, and Mizrahi origin as risk factors. Such cultural biases indirectly affected the placement recommendation. Awareness of social workers regarding these potential biases may reduce the influence of heuristics on the professional decision-making process.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018.
- child placement
- psychometric study
- risk assessment
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
- Sociology and Political Science
- Psychology (all)