Risk assessment in context

Eileen Gambrill, Aron Shlonsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

110 Citations (Scopus)


This article provides an overview of the context in which decisions about risk are made in child welfare including personal, task, and environmental factors that may contribute to uncertainty and less-than-optimal decision making, as well as some of the methodological challenges posed by the use of current risk assessment instruments. Actuarial, consensus-based, and clinical instruments are discussed and the more successful track record of actuarial decision-making in child welfare and related fields is highlighted. Methodological challenges to assessing risk are also presented including lack of reliability and validity of measures, definitional dilemmas, temporal issues such as changes in risk over time, absence of base rate data, predicting for individuals and sensitivity and specificity of measures. Implications for the design and implementation of risk assessment tools are considered in light of contextual influences and methodological limitations. Lastly, an overview of the contents of Part One of this special issue on risk assessment is provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-837
Number of pages25
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number11-12
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2000
Externally publishedYes

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