The role of parental communication, child's wishes and child's gender in social workers' custody recommendations

Hani Nouman, Guy Enosh, Pnina Niselbaum-Atzur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Social-workers' custody recommendations are influenced by professional and personal factors. In this study, we examine three factors: parental-communication, child's-wishes, and child's-gender. An experimental-survey-design was implemented, using case-descriptions, as well as professional-characteristic of the social-workers. Data were collected from 120 Israeli social-workers. The study findings reveal that interparental communication plays a significant role in the social worker's decision. Whereas deficient interparental communication leads to bias in the decision to award parental custody according to the parent's gender, with a preference for the mother over the father, as hypothesized, intact interparental communication increases the likelihood of joint custody, but still gives preference to the mother. Social workers tend to consider the children's wishes as long as their preference is for maternal custody. When children express a paternal preference, their wishes carry no weight. Furthermore, child's gender does not influence social workers' parental custody recommendation. In cases where the preference for sole maternal custody may appear as biased or untoward, a preference was awarded to joint-custody rather than to paternal-custody. The findings highlight that traditional-social-norms impact social-worker's decision. We emphasize the importance organizational mechanisms and standards that provide more efficient and egalitarian decision-making.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)302-308
Number of pages7
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd


  • Child wishes
  • Custody
  • Decision making
  • Maternal bias
  • Parents communication
  • Professional judgement

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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