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Using the SAVRY to Enhance Violence
Risk Assessment in Adolescents
The purpose of the SAVRY (Borum et al., 2003) is to assess risk factors to aid in prevention and risk reduction. The SAVRY consists of four sections (Historical Risk Factors, Social/Contextual Risk Factors, Individual Risk Factors, and Protective Factors). Each section lists specific factors the assessor should consider in making a general assessment for the risk of potential violence. Information to code the items should be obtained from multiple sources, including youth self-report, parental/caregiver reports, teacher reports, social worker reports, police reports, previous psychological and/or psychiatric evaluations, school records, juvenile justice records, and mental health and/or medical records (Borum et al., 2003). The credibility of the informant should be carefully considered, and with more weight being placed on the most credible' sources (Borum et al.). Cross-checking information is important for verification (Cormier, 1994).
Historical risk factors. Historical items are based on past experiences and behavior. They are generally static, and they have been shown to be associated with violence risk in adolescence. The historical items included in the SAVRY are (a) history of violence, (b) history of nonviolent offending, (c) early initiation of violence, (d) past supervision/intervention failures, (e) history of self-harm or suicide attempts, (f) exposure to violence in the home, (g) childhood history of maltreatment, (h) parental/ caregiver criminality, (i) early caregiver disruption, and (j) poor school achievement.
Each of the above historical items is coded as low, moderate, or high. The manual provides explicit directions for what constitutes a rating of low, moderate, or high for each item. For example, under "history of violence," the manual specifies that a low rating would apply to an adolescent who has not committed any acts of violence in the past, a moderate rating would apply to an adolescent who has committed one or two acts of violence, and a high rating would apply to an adolescent who has committed three or more acts of violence (Borum et al., 2003). The manual also specifies that each of the constructs be considered in making a thorough assessment. With regard to history of violence, for example, the manual defines violence as an act of battery or physical violence that is sufficiently severe to cause injury to another person or persons (i.e., cuts, bruises, broken bones, death, etc.), regardless of whether injury actually occurs; any act of sexual assault; or threat made with a weapon in hand. (Borum et al., p. 23) Excluded from the definition are "minor acts of aggression that do not have a reasonable likelihood of resulting in injury (e.g., sibling wrestling, light hair pulling)" (Borum et al., p. 23).
Social/contextual risk factors. The influences of peer and family relationships, connection to social institutions, and environment are important to consider in adolescent risk assessment. The social/contextual risk factors in the SAVRY are (a) peer delinquency, (b) peer rejection, (c) stress and poor coping, (d) poor parental management, (e) lack of personal/social support, and (f) community disorganization. Similar to the historical risk factors, the social/contextual risk factors are coded as low, moderate, or high. Descriptors of each also are included in the manual.
Individual risk factors. Youth attitudes and psychological and behavioral functioning also are included in the SAVRY. Individual risk factors include (a) negative attitudes, (b) risk taking/impulsivity, (c) substance use difficulties, (d) anger management problems, (e) low empathy/remorse, (f) attention deficit/hyperactivity difficulties, (g) poor compliance, and (h) low interest/commitment to school. Each of the above individual risk factors is coded as low, moderate, or high with applicable descriptors found within the manual.
Protective factors. Risk factors increase the likelihood of violence, while protective factors may reduce the overall potential for violence. Protective factors include (a) prosocial involvement, (b) strong social support, (c) strong attachments and bonds, (d) positive attitude toward intervention and authority, (e) strong commitment to school, and (f) resilient personality traits. Protective factors are simply rated as present or absent.
A thorough understanding of and supervision in utilizing the SAVRY is a necessary component when evaluating the general risk factors that may need to be considered in assessing an adolescent for the potential of violence; however, another critical and sometimes even more imminent portion of the assessment may be the assessment for targeted violence.
Targeted Violence Risk Assessment
Targeted violence risk assessments are very similar to what school counselors have been trained in with regard to suicide assessments. In the case of suicide, the central questions revolve around suicidal ideation, plans, mood disorders (i.e., depression), substance use disorders, hopelessness (U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, 2004), intention to die, and lethality (Capuzzi, 2002). Information obtained from a suicide assessment leads the school counselor to a determination of the degree of risk and targets for intervention (e.g., taking away the means, contracting, counseling, hospitalization; Capuzzi). Similarly, the central questions in the case of targeted violence risk assessments revolve around whether the student is "on a pathway toward a violent act and if so how fast he or she is moving and where could one intervene?" (Borum & Reddy, 2001, p. 377).
As noted by previous researchers (Stevens et al., 2001; Vossekuil et al., 2000), incidents of school violence usually are planned. Such planning includes what Borum and Reddy (2001) called attack-related behaviors. [Attack-related behaviors] may include developing an idea and plan to engage in a violent act toward a target; acquiring the means or capacity for the violent act (such as a weapon or other means of inflicting harm); selecting a target or targets; and determining the time, place, and manner in which to approach or otherwise gain access to the target (such as discovering the target's [schedule of activities]). These behaviors indicate planning and preparation for an attack. They are significant markers of the client's movement on the pathway from idea to action. (p. 380)
- Bernes, Kerry B.; Bardick, Angela D.; Conducting Adolescent Violence Risk Assessments: A Framework for School Counselors; Professional School Counseling, Apr2007, Vol. 10 Issue 4, p419-427
Reflection Exercise #5
The preceding section contained information
regarding using the SAVRY to enhance violence risk assessment in adolescents. Write three
case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Li, S. M. Y., Viljoen, J. L., Christiansen, A. K., & Muir, N. M. (2020). Predictive validity of the Structured Assessment of Violence Risk in Youth (SAVRY) among a sample of Asian Canadian youth on probation. Law and Human Behavior, 44(6), 485–501.
Lunn, L., Campion, K., James, S., & Velez, G. (2021). A framework for guiding transformative growth after school shootings. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 27(3), 486–496.
McLachlan, K., Gray, A. L., Roesch, R., Douglas, K. S., & Viljoen, J. L. (2018). An evaluation of the predictive validity of the SAVRY and YLS/CMI in justice-involved youth with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Psychological Assessment, 30(12), 1640–1651.
Watt, K. A., Storey, J. E., & Hart, S. D. (2018). Violence risk identification, assessment, and management practices in inpatient psychiatry. Journal of Threat Assessment and Management, 5(3), 155–172.
Wozniak, J. D., Caudle, H. E., Harding, K., Vieselmeyer, J., & Mezulis, A. H. (2020). The effect of trauma proximity and ruminative response styles on posttraumatic stress and posttraumatic growth following a university shooting. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 12(3), 227–234.
What are the ten historical items included in the SAVRY for adolescent violence risk assessment?
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