Toward a Strength-Based Approach to Risk Assessments: An Examination of the Measurement and Clinical Use of Information about Youth Strengths
Gagnier, Karina Royer
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This dissertation consists of three studies concerning the measurement and clinical use of youth strengths in assessments of adolescents’ risk to reoffend. The first chapter provides a review of the theoretical frameworks of offender rehabilitation, the strength-based approach, and findings emerging from research on youth strengths. Rationales for each study in this thesis, derived from this literature, are also offered. Chapter 2 encompasses two empirical studies in which the extent to which a risk assessment tool (YLS/CMI) and its revised version (YLS/CMI 2.0) capture youth strengths was evaluated. These tools are based on the Risk-Need-Responsivity (RNR) model of offender rehabilitation. Standard practice in the clinical use of information about youth strengths was examined in these parallel studies. Power to predict recidivism was also assessed in the first study. Chapter 3 describes the validation of the Strengths Assessment Inventory-Youth Version (SAI-Y), a novel and more comprehensive strengths assessment tool than the actuarial measures used in Chapter 2. Finally, in Chapter 4, the results and significance of the three studies are discussed within a broader context and future directions for research are suggested. Three main conclusions can be gleaned from Chapters 2 and 3: 1) current tools derived from the RNR framework do not appear to be useful measures of justice-involved youth’s personal strengths; the SAI-Y is a more promising tool; 2) the process of integrating strengths in risk assessments is not consistent; and 3) the role of strengths as responsivity considerations within the RNR model remains to be investigated. Together, these findings constitute a step toward the operationalization and clinical use of youth strengths in risk assessments. They also highlight that justice-involved youths’ strengths can be measured accurately.