Another Look at Interpreting Risk Categories

Another Look at Interpreting Risk Categories Several studies over the past decade have shown that simple rating scales can accurately rank sex offenders’ long-term risk of recidivism. But when using these scales as prediction tools, evaluators often wish to translate categories of risk into probabilities of recidivism. D. M. Doren (2004) has recently suggested that evaluators may use the recidivism percentages published in original studies of the RRASOR and STATIC-99 without regard to differences in populations or base rates. This article explains why Doren’s computations should lead to a different conclusion, and describes how simply comparing percentages across studies can mislead researchers and clinicians. Instead, investigators should isolate and examine the detection properties of risk assessment instruments alone, independent of the population- or setting-specific base rate. This article explains this process, using an imaginary study to illustrate how base rates and the properties of risk assessment instruments yield estimated probabilities of recidivism. The article also shows why Doren’s results imply that the percentages of recidivism associated with scores on the RRASOR and STATIC-99 scores may vary across study populations. The article offers recommendations for researchers who design and evaluate actuarial methods of assessing risk and for clinicians who interpret results from risk assessment instruments. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and Treatment Springer Journals

Another Look at Interpreting Risk Categories

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Publisher
Springer US
Copyright
Copyright © 2006 by Springer Science+Business Media, Inc.
Subject
Psychology; Criminology & Criminal Justice; Clinical Psychology; Psychiatry ; Sexual Behavior
ISSN
1079-0632
eISSN
1573-286X
D.O.I.
10.1007/s11194-006-9001-8
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Several studies over the past decade have shown that simple rating scales can accurately rank sex offenders’ long-term risk of recidivism. But when using these scales as prediction tools, evaluators often wish to translate categories of risk into probabilities of recidivism. D. M. Doren (2004) has recently suggested that evaluators may use the recidivism percentages published in original studies of the RRASOR and STATIC-99 without regard to differences in populations or base rates. This article explains why Doren’s computations should lead to a different conclusion, and describes how simply comparing percentages across studies can mislead researchers and clinicians. Instead, investigators should isolate and examine the detection properties of risk assessment instruments alone, independent of the population- or setting-specific base rate. This article explains this process, using an imaginary study to illustrate how base rates and the properties of risk assessment instruments yield estimated probabilities of recidivism. The article also shows why Doren’s results imply that the percentages of recidivism associated with scores on the RRASOR and STATIC-99 scores may vary across study populations. The article offers recommendations for researchers who design and evaluate actuarial methods of assessing risk and for clinicians who interpret results from risk assessment instruments.

Journal

Sexual Abuse: A Journal of Research and TreatmentSpringer Journals

Published: Apr 26, 2006

References

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