The Influence of Clinical Experience and Assessment Method on the Evaluation of Child Behavior Change

  • Anselma G. Hartley
  • Jack C. Wright
  • Audrey L. Zakriski
  • Catherine McCarthy


This research examined how people’s ability to detect behavior change in simulated child targets is affected by their clinical experience and the assessment method they use. When using summary assessment methods that are widely employed in research and clinical practice, both inexperienced and experienced clinical staff detected changes in the overall frequency of targets’ aggressive behavior, but were not uniquely influenced by changes in targets’ reactions to social events. When using contextualized assessment methods that focused on conditional reactions, experienced staff showed greater sensitivity than novices to context-specific changes in targets’ aggressive and prosocial reactions to aversive events. Experienced staff also showed greater sensitivity to context-specific changes in their overall impressions of change, but only for aggression. The findings show how clinically experienced judges become more attuned to ifthen… contingencies in children’s social behavior, and how summary assessment methods may hamper the detection of change processes.


Clinical experience Child behavior change Assessment Social context Social perception 



This research was supported in part by a National Service Agency AmeriCorps Grant. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the AmeriCorps program. We would like to thank Dennis Calcutt, Noel O’Connor, Maggie Cochran, Carrington Giammittorio, and Pamela Peterson for their assistance. We are especially grateful to Harry Parad, Director of Wediko Children’s Services, whose support made this research possible.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anselma G. Hartley
    • 1
  • Jack C. Wright
    • 1
  • Audrey L. Zakriski
    • 2
  • Catherine McCarthy
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, & Psychological SciencesBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyConnecticut CollegeNew LondonUSA

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