Faking good on the MCMI-III: Implications for child custody evaluations.

Document Type

Journal Article




Computing, Health and Science


Psychology and Social Science, Social Justice Research Centre




Originally published as: Lenny, P., & Dear, G. E. (2009). Faking Good on the MCMI–III: Implications for Child Custody Evaluations. Journal of personality assessment, 91(6), 553-559. Original available here


Individuals administered the MCMI–III (Millon, Davis, & Millon, 1997 Millon, T., Davis, R. and Millon, C. 1997. Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory–III manual, , 2nd ed., Minneapolis, MN: NCS Pearson. ) as part of a custody evaluation have shown elevations on the Desirability (Y), Histrionic (4), Narcissistic (5), and Compulsive (7) scales and low scores on the Debasement (Z) scale (McCann et al., 2001 McCann, J., Flens, J., Campagna, V., Collman, P., Lazzaro, T. and Connor, E. 2001. The MCMI–III in child custody evaluations: A normative study. Journal of Forensic Psychology., 1: 27–44. ) and all other personality and clinical scales. In this experiment, we instructed participants (N = 138) to look like good parents (fake good) or to answer honestly. The fake-good group scored higher than the honest group on Y, 4, 5, and 7 and lower on scale Z and most other scales. We plotted the mean scale scores of our fake-good group against those of McCann et al.'s custody litigants and found the 2 profiles to be very closely matched and very different from our answer-honestly group's profile. These findings raise the possibility that scale elevations on 4, 5, and 7 by custody litigants are artifacts of faking good rather than pathology in those areas. Assessors should interpret this profile cautiously in custody evaluations.




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