This article examines the factors deemed important to people when making custody decisions, focusing on a number of recent controversial adoptions cases in which courts have been forced to decide if a birth father should be granted custody of his child when the birth mother purposely fails to inform him of the child's birth or of her intention to place the child for adoption. Three independent variables from which eight vignettes were created are described, modeled on actual court cases: the birth father's knowledge of the adoption plan; the birth father's parental fitness; and the presence of a woman in the birth father's life. The study was conducted as a preliminary investigation to examine the factors which are important to people when making custody decisions in contested adoptions. A sample study was conducted, using 203 university students who were randomly assigned to read one of the vignettes. The participants were given a list of 15 issues that could be used to formulate an opinion about a particular vignette. Factors were examined to see if their importance varied with circumstance, and to examine their concurrence with factors used in judicial decisions. Results suggest that although subjects stress the importance of characteristics associated with being a good parent, the specific circumstances of each separate case especially non-parenting-related factors in the life of the biological father and the evaluator's gender have influential effects on custody decisions. The authors propose that judges are not immune to the same opinion influences examined in this study. Three tables, 26 references.
Factors Influencing Custody Decisions in Contested Adoption Cases.
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