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Performance indicators of the structured professional judgment approach for assessing risk for violence to others: a meta-analytic survey

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Thesis type
(Dissertation) Ph.D.
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Tremendous advancements have been realized during the past several decades in the science and practice of the field now known as violence risk assessment. Whereas in the 1970s and 1980s estimates (dichotomous predictions) of individuals’ potential to act violently tended to be based on unstructured clinical judgment, new technologies, or risk assessment tools, were developed during subsequent decades to assist professionals conducting such assessments. Initial technologies available were actuarial in nature; these efforts were followed by clinically based tools developed according to the structured professional judgment (SPJ) model with the intent of overcoming the perceived limitations of the actuarial approach. Throughout the field’s metamorphosis, a steadfast theme has been impassioned commentary regarding the relative merit of actuarial and clinical approaches. Although much research has examined specific SPJ tools, to date, a comprehensive evaluation of the SPJ decision making model has not been conducted. This dissertation applied meta-analytic techniques to examine the predictive validity of the SPJ model using 113 disseminations. Results supported the utility of the SPJ model (especially when summary risk ratings were used) and indicated no distinct superiority for either the actuarial or SPJ model among the 44 samples in which direct comparisons of both approaches were made. It is concluded that both types of technologies perform at comparably good levels of predictive accuracy, but that additional factors are relevant when selecting an approach for clinical practice. Implications for practice and research are discussed.
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