Validation of the Adolescent Concerns Evaluation (ACE): Detecting Indicators of Runaway Behavior in Adolescents

Article excerpt

The Adolescent Concerns Evaluation (ACE)is a 40-item multidimensional instrument scored on a five-point Likert scale consisting of four separate yet interdependent domains: family, school, peer, and individual(depression). The instrument has the potential to identify youths who ore at risk of running away and may be useful to social work educators, practitioners, and researchers who deal with this vulnerable population. With preliminary evidence that the ACE is a reliable and valid tool, it is hoped that the instrument may help social workers determine treatment goals and measure treatment progress in their work with runaway youths.

Key words: Adolescent Concerns Evaluation; assessment; reliability; runaway youths; validity

Explanations of why young people run away from home and the meaning and significance attached to this behavior have varied over time, reflecting changing social, historical, political, and economic contexts. Current research demonstrates a trend toward long-term homelessness for runaway adolescents (Rothman, 1991), which partially can be attributed to a pattern of family breakdown (Teare, Authier, & Peterson, 1994; Whitbeck & Simons, 1990), accompanied by such factors as parental rejection (Kurtz, Jarvis, & Kurtz, 1991), physical and sexual abuse of teenagers (Powers, Eckenrode, & Jalditsch, 1990), and school problems (Kammer & Schmidt, 1987). Dealing with these complex issues is a challenging task for social workers who deal with runaways, requiring an in-depth understanding of this population and the problems it experiences. The social work literature has reflected a professional concern that interventions should be empirically demonstrated to be effective (Fischer, 1973; Rubin, 1985). However, empirical research on intervention strategies with runaway youths is limited.

One of many barriers to practice and research with this population has been the lack of an easily administered measurement instrument that specifically addresses runaway behavior. Post and McCoard (1994) developed an instrument (Needs of Adolescent Runaways) that serves as an assessment of the needs of runaway youths after they have run away. To date, however, no instrument that serves as an indicator of adolescents who may be at risk of running away from home or that has the capacity to track progress of treatment with runaway youths has been developed. An instrument that identifies youths who may be at risk of running away may lead to a subsequent increase in primary, secondary, and tertiary preventive social work practice with this population. The development of such an instrument--the Adolescent Concerns Evaluation (ACE)--is the focus of this article. The ACE is presented, as are preliminary psychometric properties of the instrument.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Not surprising, close inspection of various explanations about why adolescents run away from home reveals several themes that point to situational determinants that contribute to the runaway phenomenon: escape from an intolerable situation within the family (VanHouten & Golebiewski, 1985); parental rejection or expulsion (Adams, Gullotta, & Clancy, 1985); the effort of the adolescent to establish separation, individuation, and independence or emancipation from family rule, regulation, and support (Crespi & Sabatelli, 1993); economic stress (Ferran & Sabatini, 1985); negative psychological or social adjustment (Kammer & Schmidt, 1987); violation of social expectations and cultural norms (Achenbach & Edelbrock, 1979); an attempt to find a value system that the runaway can accept (Loeb, Burke, & Boglarsky, 1986); or simple thrill seeking (Blood & D'Angelo, 1974). In addition, some adolescents have encountered very difficult situations in school and have experienced a lack of support within the home (Post & McCoard, 1994).

The families of runaways frequently have been described as being dysfunctional in one way or another: Parents are often separated, divorced, in trouble with the law, or abusing alcohol (Kurtz et al. …