Psychological Assessment

  • Taking forensic mental health assessment “out of the lab” and into “the real world”: Introduction to the special issue on the field utility of forensic assessment instruments and procedures.
    The last several decades have seen a major upswing in the development and use of psychological assessment instruments in forensic and correctional settings. At the same time, admissibility standards increasingly have stressed the importance of the reliability and validity of evidence in legal proceedings. Recent research has, however, raised serious concerns about (a) the reliability of forensic science evidence in general, (b) the replicability of psychological research findings in general and in field settings especially, and (c) the interrater reliability and predictive validity of forensic psychological assessment evidence in particular. In this introduction to the special issue of Psychological Assessment on the field utility of forensic assessment instruments and procedures, we provide an overview of key issues bearing on field studies, focusing on why such research is critically important to improving the quality of the practice of forensic mental health assessments. We also identify various methodological issues and constraints relevant to conducting research outside of controlled settings. We conclude with recommendations for how future field research can improve upon the current state of the discipline in forensic mental health assessment. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Field validity of Static-99/R scores in a statewide sample of 34,687 convicted sexual offenders.
    The Static-99 (and revision, the Static-99R) reflect the most researched and widely used approach to sex offender risk assessment. Because the measure is so widely applied in jurisdictions beyond those on which it was developed, it becomes crucial to examine its field validity and the degree to which published norms and recidivism rates apply to other jurisdictions. We present a new and greatly expanded field study of the predictive validity (M = 5.23 years follow-up) of the Static-99 as applied system-wide in Texas (N = 34,687). Results revealed stronger predictive validity than a prior Texas field study, especially among offenders scored after the release of an updated scoring manual in 2003 (AUC = .66 to .67, d = .65 to .69), when field reliability was also stronger. But calibration analyses revealed that the Static-99R routine sample norms led to a significant overestimation of risk in Texas, especially for offenders with scores ranging from 1 to 5. We used logistic regression to develop local Texas recidivism norms (with confidence intervals) for Static-99R scores. Overall, findings highlight the importance of revisiting and updating field study findings, and the potential benefits of using statewide data to develop local norms. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Actuarial risk assessment of sexual offenders: The psychometric properties of the Sex Offender Risk Appraisal Guide (SORAG).
    The Sex Offender Risk Appraisal Guide (SORAG) is one of the most commonly used actuarial risk assessment instruments for sexual offenders. The aims of the present field study were to examine the predictive validity of the German version of the SORAG and its individual items for different offender subgroups and recidivism criteria in sexual offenders released from the Austrian Prison System (N = 1,104; average follow-up period M = 6.48 years) within a prospective-longitudinal research design. For the prediction of violent recidivism the German version of the SORAG yielded an effect size of AUC = .74 (p < .001, 95% CI = .70–.78). The predictive accuracy for general and violent recidivism was slightly higher than for general sexual and sexual hands-on recidivism. The effect sizes were found to be higher for the child molester sample than for rapists. However, the differences were significant only for general recidivism (z = 2.48, p = .001). Further analyses exhibited the SORAG to have incremental predictive validity beyond the VRAG and the PCL-R, and to remain the only significant predictor for violent recidivism once all 3 instruments were forced into a combined regression model. Twelve out of the 14 SORAG items were found to have a significant positive relationship with violent recidivism. The comparison of the relative and absolute risk indices between the Austrian and the Canadian samples showed that the normative data distribution yielded more (absolute risk indices) or less (relative risk indices) meaningful differences between the 2 countries. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • "Psychometric properties of the PTSD Checklist for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders–Fifth Edition (PCL-5) in veterans": Correction to Bovin et al. (2016).
    Reports an error in “Psychometric properties of the PTSD Checklist for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders–Fifth Edition (PCL-5) in veterans” by Michelle J. Bovin, Brian P. Marx, Frank W. Weathers, Matthew W. Gallagher, Paola Rodriguez, Paula P. Schnurr and Terence M. Keane (Psychological Assessment, 2016[Nov], Vol 28[11], 1379-1391). In the article, the departments and affiliations were incorrectly listed for authors Michelle J. Bovin, Brian P. Marx, Matthew W. Gallagher, Paola Rodriguez, Paula P. Schnurr, and Terence M. Keane. The first department and affiliation for authors Michelle J. Bovin, Brian P. Marx, Matthew W. Gallagher, Paola Rodriguez, and Terence M. Keane and should have read “National Center for PTSD at VA Boston Healthcare System, Boston, Massachusetts”. The first department and affiliation for author Paula P. Schnurr should have read “National Center for PTSD, White River Junction, Vermont.” The online version of this article has been corrected. (The following abstract of the original article appeared in record 2015-55809-001.) This study examined the psychometric properties of the posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Checklist for Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-Fifth Edition (PCL-5; Weathers, Litz, et al., 2013b) in 2 independent samples of veterans receiving care at a Veterans Affairs Medical Center (N = 468). A subsample of these participants (n = 140) was used to define a valid diagnostic cutoff score for the instrument using the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM–5 (CAPS-5; Weathers, Blake, et al., 2013) as the reference standard. The PCL-5 test scores demonstrated good internal consistency (α = .96), test–retest reliability (r = .84), and convergent and discriminant validity. Consistent with previous studies (Armour et al., 2015; Liu et al., 2014), confirmatory factor analysis revealed that the data were best explained by a 6-factor anhedonia model and a 7-factor hybrid model. Signal detection analyses using the CAPS-5 revealed that PCL-5 scores of 31 to 33 were optimally efficient for diagnosing PTSD (κ(.5) = .58). Overall, the findings suggest that the PCL-5 is a psychometrically sound instrument that can be used effectively with veterans. Further, by determining a valid cutoff score using the CAPS-5, the PCL-5 can now be used to identify veterans with probable PTSD. However, findings also suggest the need for research to evaluate cluster structure of DSM–5. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Field measures of psychopathy and sexual deviance as predictors of recidivism among sexual offenders.
    Offenders with high levels of both psychopathy and deviant sexual interests are often described as being more prone to recidivate than other sexual offenders, and many forensic evaluators report considering this psychopathy and sexual deviance interaction when coming to conclusions about sex offender risk. However, empirical support for the interaction comes from studies using sexual deviance measures that are rarely used in the field. We examined the ability of Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) field scores and possible field measures of sexual deviance (e.g., paraphilia diagnosis, offense characteristics) to predict sexual recidivism among 687 offenders released after being evaluated for postrelease civil commitment (M follow-up = 10.5 years). PCL-R total scores and antisocial personality diagnoses were predictive of a combined category of violent or sexual recidivism, but not sexual recidivism. Paraphilia diagnoses and offense characteristics were not associated with an increased likelihood of reoffending. There was no evidence that those with high levels of both psychopathy and sexual deviance were more likely than others to reoffend. Although the psychopathy and sexual deviance interaction findings from prior studies are large and compelling, our findings highlight the need for research examining the best ways to translate those findings into routine practice. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Use of structured professional judgment by probation officers to assess risk for recidivism in adolescent offenders.
    The current study tested a method of risk assessment for adolescent offenders that relies on structured professional judgment: the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk for Youth (SAVRY; Borum, Bartel, & Forth, 2006). Trained probation officers in 3 jurisdictions administered the SAVRY to 505 adjudicated adolescents (M age = 15.43 years, SD = 1.62). The results supported the validity of the SAVRY administered in this juvenile justice context. Specifically, scores from the SAVRY differentiated violent from nonviolent offenders and predicted both violent and nonviolent recidivism over a 12-month follow-up period. Violent offenders showed more historical and individual risk factors than nonviolent offenders, and violent sex offenders were rated as more deficient in empathy and remorse. The anger control item was a particularly important indicator of risk for reoffending in the violent offender group. The implications of these findings for weighting risk factors in individual cases when using structured professional judgment are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Are risk assessments racially biased?: Field study of the SAVRY and YLS/CMI in probation.
    Risk assessment instruments are widely used by juvenile probation officers (JPOs) to make case management decisions; however, few studies have investigated whether these instruments maintain their predictive validity when completed by JPOs in the field. Moreover, the validity of these instruments for use with minority groups has been called into question. This field study examined the predictive validity of both the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth (SAVRY; n = 383) and the Youth Level of Service/Case Management Inventory (YLS/CMI; n = 359) for reoffending when completed by JPOs. The study also compared Black and White youth to examine the presence of test bias. The SAVRY and YLS/CMI significantly predicted reoffending at the test level, with most of the variance in reoffending accounted for by dynamic risk scales not static scales. The instruments did not differentially predict reoffending as a function of race but Black youth scored higher than White youth on the YLS/CMI scale related to official juvenile history. The implications for use of risk assessments in the field are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • How well do juvenile risk assessments measure factors to target in treatment? Examining construct validity.
    There has been a surge of interest in using 1 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 (Mage = 18, SD = 1.6), 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, multimethod 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, and 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 6 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. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

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