Youth and Family Violence Assessment and Treatment to Be Discussed in South Africa

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Dr. Kathryn Seifert will be attending meetings of Psychologists, Psychiatrists, and other healthcare professionals in South Africa January 17-29, 2004 to discuss issues of violence, PTSD, and AIDS.

Violence is an extremely important issue around the world. Predicting and preventing risk of violence is the primary area of research for Dr. Kathryn Seifert, a scientist practitioner in Maryland. Dr. Seifert will be attending meetings with American and South African healthcare professionals, government representatives, and professors as part of the People to People Ambassador program on the Psychology of Social Issues in January of 2004. Dr. Seifert will be discussing her ongoing violence research, the CARE (Child and Adolescent Risk Evaluation), and successful violence prevention programs and interventions. Also to be discussed is the study of a new adult violence risk evaluation tool, the Risk Management Evaluation (RME).

The importance of ongoing research into and discussion of violence and risk tools, is not to label or stigmatize youth, but to ensure that the appropriate treatment is provided as early as possible to prevent future violence. Risk of dangerousness is assessed every day in every country in the world. There are cases, such as the Christmas visit of John Hinkly with his parents, where a health professional had to judge the potential risk of allowing him to be unescorted in the community. Lesser security decisions are made every day for thousands of offenders or forensic patients. While many criminal and juvenile justice agencies use clinical judgment and traditional psychological tests to assess the risk of future violence, ongoing research has repeatedly shown that clinical judgment of future risk of violence, even when enhanced by traditional psychological tests, is no better than chance. Ongoing study of risk assessment tools will be a major step forward in managing and preventing future violence.

Recent research has revealed that the validity statistics of the CARE, are equivalent to or exceed those of other existing violence risk tools. While the correlations between the SAVRY, EARL-20, and PCL-YV with violence range from .09 to .48, the correlation between the CARE (sample 550) and youth violence is .65. Correlations of the SAVRY risk score and violence in a sample of 108 was .67. While not designed for risk of sexual offending, the correlations between the CARE and sexual offending is comparable to other existing sex offender risk tools. The reliability of all these tools appears to be very good. Additionally, the CARE provides information on the intensity and type of services a youth may need.

Existing Adult tools such as the PCL-R and HCR-20, and VRAG have correlations with adult violence ranging from .34 to .58. While the sample is still small (133), studies of the Risk Management Evaluation (RME), have shown that correlations of the RME with adult past and future violence ranges from .65 to .73. The RME also includes guidance for risk management among offenders and forensic patients.    

Our world today is very dangerous, especially as we think about the possibility of terrorist attacks. Research on the risk factors that lead to violence has strongly implicated childhood abuse, neglect, and exposure to violence. We place our world at risk if we do not attend to the needs of war orphans and children exposed to violence around the world. The study of risk tools and violence interventions will improve our ability to create a safe world.

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Kathryn Seifert
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