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Current State of Adolescent Risk Assessment (From Handbook of Sex Offender Treatment, P 23-1 - 23-15, 2011, Barbara K. Schwartz, ed. - See NCJ-243091)

NCJ Number
David S. Prescott, M.S.W., L.I.C.S.W.
Date Published
15 pages
This chapter reviews the latest developments in the specialized area of predicting sexually inappropriate behavior in adolescents, and caution is advised concerning the serious ramifications of predicting that a youth is on the path toward becoming an adult sex offender.
The chapter describes recent research on this issue, outlines evolving strategies, and assesses the limitations of our current ability to assess risk. The chapter first advises that the three principles of "risk," "need," and "responsivity" (Andrews and Bonta, 1998) are critical in assessing juveniles who engage in harmful and inappropriate sexual behavior. The "risk" principle states that intervention should be matched to the risk the offender poses. The "need" principle states that interventions should target areas related to criminal behavior; and "the responsivity" principle states that interventions should match the characteristics of the offender. These distinctions are crucial to accurate assessment. The phrase "risk assessment" becomes the collecting of information specific to making decisions about a multifaceted hazard, which is made more complicated by the developmental and contextual issues of adolescence. There is no empirically validated algorithm by which to assess a young person's risk for sexual reoffending; however, there is sufficient emerging evidence with which practitioners should be familiar. There is an evolving agreement in the literature that the majority of youth that are assessed do not have deeply entrenched patterns of sexual deviance, and that their sexual arousal patterns, personalities, and proclivity to engage in delinquent behaviors are all subject to change without notice. What clinicians and criminal justice practitioners are hoping to be able to determine is an "ongoing willingness" to engage in harmful behavior. This fundamentally dynamic element is likely best assessed in the simple static variable of early onset with subsequent sexual misconduct despite detection, sanction, and treatment. 63 references