How Well Do Juvenile Risk Assessments Measure Factors to Target in Treatment? Examining Construct Validity

Forthcoming in Skeem, J., Kennealy, P., Tatar, J., Hernandez, I., & Keith, F. How well do juvenile risk assessments measure factors to target in treatment? Examining construct validity; Construct Validity

42 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2016

See all articles by Jennifer L. Skeem

Jennifer L. Skeem

University of California, Berkeley

Patrick Kennealy

Government of the State of Texas - Travis County Community Justice Services (TCCJS)

Joseph Tatar

Wisconsin Department of Corrections

Isaias Hernandez

Parajo Valley Unified School District

Felicia Keith

Government of the United States of America - Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

Date Written: August 31, 2016

Abstract

There has been a surge of interest in using one type of risk assessment instrument to tailor treatment to juveniles to reduce recidivism. Unlike prediction-oriented instruments, these reduction-oriented instruments explicitly measure variable risk factors as “needs” to be addressed in treatment. There is little evidence, however, that the instruments accurately measure specific risk factors. Based on a sample of 237 serious juvenile offenders (M age=18, SD=1.5), we tested whether California Youth Assessment Inventory (CA-YASI) scores validly assess the risk factors they purport to assess. Youth were assessed by practitioners with good interrater reliability on the CA-YASI, and by research staff on a battery of validated, multi-method criterion measures of target constructs. We meta-analytically tested whether each CA-YASI risk domain score (e.g., Attitudes) related more strongly to scores on convergent measures of theoretically similar constructs (e.g., criminal thinking styles) than to scores on discriminant measures of theoretically distinct constructs (e.g., intelligence, somatization, pubertal status). CA-YASI risk domain scores with the strongest validity support were those that assess criminal history. The only variable CA-YASI risk domain score that correlated more strongly with convergent (Zr=.35) than discriminant (Zr=.07) measures was Substance Use. There was little support for the construct validity of the remaining six variable CA-YASI risk domains — including those that ostensibly assess strong risk factors (e.g., “Attitudes,” “Social Influence”). Our findings emphasize the need to test the construct validity of reduction-oriented instruments — and refine instruments to precisely measure their targets so they can truly inform risk reduction.

Public Significance: This study suggests that scores on a juvenile risk assessment instrument provide little direction for targeting treatment to reduce young people’s risk of reoffending. With the exception of “Substance Abuse,” we found little evidence that scores on ostensibly treatment-relevant scales measure the risk factors they purport to measure. The instrument must be refined, to support valid interpretations about risk factors to target in treatment.

Keywords: risk asssessment, risk reduction, juvenile, offender, treatment

Suggested Citation

Skeem, Jennifer L. and Kennealy, Patrick and Tatar, Joseph and Hernandez, Isaias and Keith, Felicia, How Well Do Juvenile Risk Assessments Measure Factors to Target in Treatment? Examining Construct Validity (August 31, 2016). Forthcoming in Skeem, J., Kennealy, P., Tatar, J., Hernandez, I., & Keith, F. How well do juvenile risk assessments measure factors to target in treatment? Examining construct validity; Construct Validity, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2832954

Jennifer L. Skeem (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

120 Haviland Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7400
United States

Patrick Kennealy

Government of the State of Texas - Travis County Community Justice Services (TCCJS) ( email )

P.O. Box 1748
Austin, TX 78767
United States

Joseph Tatar

Wisconsin Department of Corrections ( email )

Madison, WI 53702
United States

Isaias Hernandez

Parajo Valley Unified School District ( email )

294 Green Valley Rd
Watsonville, CA 95076
United States

Felicia Keith

Government of the United States of America - Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

4301 Jones Bridge Road
Bethesda, MD 20814
United States

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