The goal of this book is to explore the role of standardized psychological assessments in the treatment of young people in educational, counseling, forensic, and other settings. A basic argument is that standardized assessments provide a better basis for assessing individuals than the informal and unsystematic procedures commonly used in schools, agencies, clinics, and practitioners' offices, and that in turn, more valid assessments lead to better decisions about possible courses of action. This argument is more fully developed in the coming chapters.
Why focus on the assessment of adolescents? First, adolescence is a distinct development period and youths in the teen years display somewhat different risk and need factors than younger and older groups. We know this from experience and from a large body of theory and research on adolescent development. Second, most texts and handbooks on psychological assessment either concentrate on adults or lump together younger children and adolescents. In both cases, there is a relative neglect of assessment issues specific to adolescents.
The book is directed toward three audiences. The first group includes mental health professionals involved in the conduct and interpretation of psychological assessments of adolescents. This group is composed primarily of psychologists, but other professionals such as psychiatrists, social workers, educators, and child care workers are sometimes involved as well. The second group includes professionals who may be required to use the results of psychological assessments in their decision making. School principals, youth court judges, and managers of residential treatment facilities are three exemplars of such professionals. This book should help them understand the purposes and procedures of psychological assessments, as well as the associated strengths and weaknesses. The third group includes developmental researchers interested in adolescents. They may benefit from the review of standardized assessment tools presented in the book.