Heuristic decision-making in foster care matching: Evidence from a think-aloud study

Zeijlmans, K., López López, M., Grietens, H. & Knorth, E. J., Feb-2019, In : Child Abuse and Neglect. 88, p. 400-411 12 p., 37.

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  • Heuristic decision-making in foster care matching

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Complex decisions are often based on heuristics, which are shortcuts or simple ‘rules of thumb’. Since the matching decision in family foster care is often made in a less-than-ideal setting and riddled with uncertainty, heuristics are expected to be applied in that field of child and youth care on a daily basis. However, the use of heuristics in the matching decision has not been studied
empirically until now. This research explores how decision-making heuristics are used by practitioners to determine which foster family is the best fit for a child. A number of 20 matching practitioners from the Netherlands were interviewed using vignettes and a ‘think-aloud’ methodology to generate an understanding of their reasoning. Two types of vignettes were created: hypothetical children and hypothetical foster families. The interviews were analyzed using a qualitative deductive content analysis focusing on key indicators of three classes of heuristics: recognition heuristics, one-reason heuristics, and trade-off heuristics. The results show that recognition heuristics did not play a decisive role in the matching process; practitioners considered more than one family before making a final decision. The findings for the one-reason heuristics reveal conjunctive decision-making rules; families were rejected based on one negative premise. The analysis of the trade-off heuristics demonstrates that the number of positive premises and the ratio between positive and negative premises predicted the matching decision. However, the total number of premises also predicted the matching decision, which might indicate confirmation bias.
Original languageEnglish
Article number37
Pages (from-to)400-411
Number of pages12
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Early online date24-Dec-2018
Publication statusPublished - Feb-2019


  • Matching, Foster care, Bounded rationality, Heuristics, Decision-making, Child welfare professionals, CHILD PROTECTION, AFRICAN-AMERICAN, PLACEMENT, JUDGMENT, PRACTITIONERS, RATIONALES, KNOWLEDGE, CHOICE, RISK

ID: 72441250