Level of Functioning and Recidivism Risk among Adolescent Offenders

Article excerpt

Developing effective interventions for youth involved in the juvenile justice system is a national priority. A basic principle of effective intervention is determining factors that are malleable and contribute to one's delinquency, and developing interventions that successfully target those problematic domains (Gendreau, 1996; Andrews, Bonita, & Hoge, 1990). Indeed, interventions targeting the factors that contribute to conduct problems are effective in reducing recidivism (e.g., Dembo et al., 2000; Henggeler, Melton, Smith, Schoenwald, & Hanley, 1993). Thus, assessment is a cornerstone of delinquency reduction.

Assessment approaches to predicting the behavior of detained or incarcerated individuals has a lengthy history and resulted in a sizable literature concerning the factors that are associated with crime and its amelioration. Subsequently, several narrative and meta-analytic reviews concerning adolescents have been published (e.g., Cottle, Lee, & Heilbrun, 2001; Lipsy, 1992) resulting in the identification of several sociobehavioiral factors associated with recidivism. These reviews have contributed to the development of instruments that assess dynamic offender risk factors--those areas that are most intimately related to conduct problems but that are also malleable (i.e., criminogenic in nature).

Criminogenic Assessment and the YLS / CMI

Criminogenic assessments of Len include stable risk factors (e.g., age of first contact with the law) due to their relative predictive power but emphasize dynamic factors that can be an intervention target (e.g., family problems, peer associations). Although several instruments exist (e.g., Crowe, 2000; Howell, 1995), published research assessing adolescents is more limited. In contrast to many instruments, one that has been the subject of a number of investigations is the Youth Level of Service/Casemanagement Inventory (YLS/CMI; Hoge & Andrews, 1996; Hoge, Andrews, & Leschied, 2002).

The YLS/CMI, also known as the Ministry Risk/Needs Assessment Form in provinces of Canada (Jung & Rawana, 1999) was derived from a revised adult version that is predictive of several recidism measures among a variety of adult populations (Coulson, Ilacqua, Nutbrown, Giulekas, & Cudjoe, 1996). The published research on adolescents is more limited in amount and accessibility, but does document positive psychometric properties (Hoge, 2004). Conceptually, the YLS/CMI covers eight domains; items were empirically selected from a larger group that comprised the preliminary version of the instrument. The design of the instrument is intended to reflect the risk, need, and responsivity principles of justice system classification (Hoge, 2004).

Level of Functioning and the CAFAS

Level of Functioning (LOF) has predominantly been used as a measure to determine whether a specific set of behaviors have caused sufficient impairment in functioning to be considered a disorder (Bird, 1999). In recognition of developmental differences and the multi-domain nature of functioning, several multi-subscale measures of functioning have been created specifically for youth (e.g., Hodges, 1990, 1994; John, Gammon, Prusoff, & Warner, 1987; c.f. Bird, 1999). These measures have been utilized in a number of ways (e.g., outcome for services) and generated a great deal of research. The Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scales are popular measures of adolescent functioning and utilized as the foundation of other LOF scales (e.g., Frank, Paul, Marks, & Van Egeren, 2000). Overall, the CAFAS has been used in a variety of settings and is associated with a number of outcomes (Hodges, 1999).

Recently, evidence has indicated that the CAFAS is also predictive of an involvement in the justice system by adolescents. More specifically, Hodges & Kim (2000) found that the Child and Adolescent Functional Assessment Scales (CAFAS) total scores were associated with contact with the law during the six months following intake among a large sample of 7- 18-year-olds involved in the mental health services. …