by Randy Borum and David Verhaagen; New York, Guilford Press, 226 pages, 2006, $35
Dr. DiCataldo is assistant professor of psychology at Roger Williams University, Bristol, Rhode Island.
It has been a quarter century since John Monahan (1) first problematized the clinical prediction of dangerousness, ushering in the paradigmatic shift to a public health model of violence risk as a continuum. The paradox of Monahan's critique has been the spread—not its demise—of violence risk assessment to every corner of mental health practice. Concern about violence risk lurks behind every patient-clinician interaction.
The systematization of violence risk assessments for psychiatric patients, thanks in large measure to the recent MacArthur Violence Risk Assessment Study (2), is more advanced than it is for children and adolescents who find themselves ensnared within the various systems devised for dealing with youths in trouble. Assessing and Managing Violence Risk in Juveniles will undoubtedly help close that gap. It is the best resource presently available for the mental health professional faced with the complex task of having to provide empirically anchored assessments of the risk of violence among young people.
Randy Borum and David Verhaagen have done a masterful job of distilling the expansive theoretical and empirical literature from developmental criminology, adolescent psychopathology, and research on youth violence. They translate this vast store into a concise and clearly presented practice manual to guide the clinician from data collection, to the synthesis of findings, and to the construction of a comprehensive and relevant report regarding violence risk and its management and reduction. It will be an indispensable resource for the clinician working within any of the numerous "at-risk-youth" sites, where risk assessments are routinely produced.
Although the book will likely be a favorite among the clinicians who conduct risk assessments as a regular part of their clinical practice, it will likely fail to satisfy scholars concerned about the media-fueled panic about youth violence, which is behind the recent legal trends calling for the criminalization of delinquency and the ever-growing overrepresentation of youths from minority groups within the criminal justice system. Concern about violence risk among youths is everywhere these days. The adolescent in our midst has become a figure to be regarded with fear, and our fears are no longer confined to youths within the halls of juvenile court. They have spread to our schools and are reaching down to younger and younger children. The book sidesteps these larger problems that have more to do with our systems of thought about youths than with the youths themselves.
The assessment process prescribed within the book will undoubtedly result in better assessments. Let's hope that it doesn't also promote the idea that more assessments are necessarily better. Better quality and less quantity could be a more valuable outcome.
Monahan J: Predicting Violent Behavior: An Assessment of Clinical Techniques. Beverly Hills, Calif, Sage, 1981
Monahan J, Steadman H, Silver E, et al: Rethinking Risk Assessment: The MacArthur Study of Mental Disorder and Violence. New York, Oxford University Press, 2001