Testing the validity of criminal risk assessment tools in sexually abusive youth.

Although accurate risk appraisals are mandatory to provide effective treatment to juveniles who have sexually offended (JSOs), the current knowledge on the validity of risk assessment instruments for JSOs is inconclusive. We compared the predictive validities of the Juvenile Sex Offender Assessment Protocol II (J-SOAP II), the Estimate of Risk of Adolescent Sexual Offense Recidivism (ERASOR), and the Violence Risk Appraisal Guide-Revised (VRAG-R) scores concerning sexual, nonsexual-violent, and general criminal recidivism (based on both official and nonregistered reoffenses) in a consecutive sample of 597 male JSOs (Mage = 14.47 years, SDage = 1.57 years) while accounting for different recidivism periods, offense severities, and cumulative burden of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Receiver Operator Characteristic (ROC) curves and Cox regression analyses indicated that the tools allowed valid predictions of recidivism according to their intended purposes: The ERASOR was best suited to predict sexual recidivism within 0.5 and 3 years, the J-SOAP II was valid for predictions of sexual and nonsexual-violent recidivism within these recidivism periods, and the VRAG-R showed potential strengths in predicting nonsexual-violent recidivism, especially when committed above age 18. Elevated offense severity and burden of ACEs impeded predictive accuracies of the J-SOAP II and the VRAG-R, particularly in case of sexual recidivism. Our findings emphasize that risk assessment for JSOs must not rely solely on scores derived from risk assessment instruments, but a comprehensive consideration of a JSOs offense severity and psychosocial adversities is additionally necessary to approach accurate risk appraisals. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)