Forensic Services

Court: IASA Protocol

Attachment has long been considered relevant to care proceedings.

Nevertheless, its usefulness, as compared for example to medical evidence, has been limited by the diverse ways in which attachment is assessed, the different training of experts, and the lack of verifiable evidence upon which to base opinions.

In an effort to move from expert opinion to verifiable evidence, The International Association for the Study of Attachment (IASA) has developed a protocol for assessment and formulation of issues related to attachment. The purpose of the protocol is to act as a guide to good practice and to begin a process of improving the application of attachment to family court proceedings.

Because skill develops over time and is used for different purposes, IASA offers three forms of report:

  • DMM-informed reports
  • DMM-formulated reports
  • DMM Family Attachment Reports

The components of the IASA Protocol are (1) a guide to using attachment assessments and writing reports to the court, (2) plug-in materials describing attachment at different ages, the DMM assessments, and providing skeleton report forms, and (3) a list of currently authorized coders of the assessments and professionals who can write DMM Family Attachment Reports.

Authorized Coders

Coders are trained and tested for reliability of classification by The Family Relations Institute.
Eight assessments are taught and have authorized coders:

  • Infant CARE-Index
  • Toddler CARE-Index
  • Infant Strange Situation (SSP)
  • Preschool Assessment of Attachment (PAA)
  • School-age Assessment of Attachment (SAA)
  • Transition to Adulthood Assessment of Attachment (TAAI)
  • Adult Attachment Interview (DMM-AAI)
  • Parents Interview (PI)

Reliability is graded on four levels with only coders who achieve Levels I and II being suitable for court applications.

All coders who achieve reliability are given a dated Certificate of Reliability; the certificate is a pdf that should be provided to the court as evidence of the coder’s qualification to provide evidence on attachment.

Coders with Level I provide classifications with a 15% error rate on assessments used in court proceedings. This is the standard deemed suitable for person-specific decision-making.

Coders with Level II provide classifications with an 20% error rate on normative and clinical assessments, but not assessments of individuals in child care court proceedings.
Coders who have taken courses on more than one assessment tend to provide a fuller understanding of the assessments on which they are reliable. Coders who are reliable on several assessments tend to provide the best understanding of the meaning of the assessments.

Coders should both provide their certificate(s) of reliability to the court and, in their reports, acknowledge the error rate implied by their authorization.