Theory and Methods in Clinical Psychology Term Paper

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Psychological test or assessment method. "The Substance Abuse Questionnaire -- Adult Probation III

Brief Description of the Test

The recent release of one of the youngest convicted child murders in our nation's history, Lionel Tate, now an adult, into the general population, has highlighted the difficulty of determining if a former prisoner should be eligible for parole. Psychologists have attempted to answer this difficult and subjective question by designing the objectively-assessed test known as "The Substance Abuse Questionnaire -- Adult Probation III" exam. (Risk & Needs Assessment, Inc., 1997) This test was originally designed in 1987 exclusively for adult prisoners eligible for probation to determine the risk of paroling them and assessing their risk to society and has since been updated, in 1997, to include inventories for truthfulness. (Spies, 2003)

The SAQ is 165-item questionnaire. It can be administered either in a paper and pencil format or on a computer. All of the queries on the test are either true or false or multiple-choice. Thus it is not subjectively scored, although an expert must assess it. Its questions attempt to assess the test taker's risk levels for abusing alcohol and drugs, and for the traits of aggression, antisocial behavior, violence, resisting authority, ability or inability to cope with stressful situations, and also for truthfulness. All of these different areas are individually scored in different batteries or areas, although a general risk level is also assigned by the test. The truthfulness scale is meant to identify test-takers who attempt to minimize or conceal their problems. It can be administered as a group.

According to the test's Orientation and Training Manual, each raw score then is truth-corrected through a process of adding back into each scale score the amount of error variance associated with a person's untruthfulness (Risk & Needs Assessment, Inc., 1997). The adjusted percentile score is reported as falling within one of four ascending levels of risk, that of low, medium, problem, or presenting a severe problem. "The responsible staff person is expected to use information from the report, along with professional judgment, to identify the severity of risk and needs and to develop recommendations for intervention." (Spies, 2003)

A Description of the Reliability of the Test

Most of the test's questions focus on personal behaviors, perceptions, thoughts, and attitudes that could suggest or not suggest the continuance of negative criminal coping strategies and behaviors. The queries posed on the exam "are linked in a direct and very obvious way to the content of associated scales." (Spies, 2003). In other words, the prisoner might be asked, true or false, in a very blatant fashion, if he or she is "concerned" about his or her drinking behavior. This means, according the to the Buros Institute of Mental Measurement reviewer Robert Spies, almost all items on the test are biased in the sense that they are phrased in the socially undesirable direction.

This means that the more the test-taker is inclined to agree with the test, the greater the need for concern or for possible intervention or restriction of the potential parolee's behavior. (Spies, 2003) The reviewer Spies implies that a savvy test taker might quite quickly 'catch on' to the bias of the test against yes answers, thus damaging the test's reliability. Even "the developer acknowledges that the items may appear to some people as intrusive, and that clients are likely to minimize or under-report their problems." (Spies, 2003) The test constructions allege that this potential concern may be alleviated by the inclusion of the truthfulness scale and calculation of truth-corrected scale scores. However, even this inventory is biased in favor of negative answers in terms of assessing the candidate's suitability for parole, and according to Spies, "unfortunately, the statistical procedures underlying this important score correction are neither identified nor defended." (Spies, 2003)

A Description of the…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

American Educational Research Association. (1999). Standards for educational and psychological testing. Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.

SAQ -- The Substance Abuse Questionnaire -- Adult Probation III (1997). Risk & Needs Assessment, Inc.

Spies, Robert. (2003). [Review of the SAQ -- Adult Probation [Substance Abuse Questionnaire].]. Buros Institute of Mental Measurements. http://www.unl.edu/buros/reviewsample.html.

Toneatto, T. (1995). [Review of the SAQ -- Adult Probation [Substance Abuse Questionnaire].] In J.C. Conoley & J.C. Impara (Eds.). The twelfth mental measurements yearbook (pp. 889-891). Lincoln, NE: Buros Institute of Mental Measurements.

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