Towards best practice: combining evidence-based research, structured assessment and professional judgement

Lillian De Bortoli, James Ogloff, Jan Coles, Mairead Dolan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Limitations of instruments adopting consensus and actuarial approaches are well documented when assessing risk of abusive behaviour. Whilst the consensus approach is flexible and useful for structuring information, it relies upon the practitioner's ability to combine information and apply knowledge of empirical research. The actuarial approach involves a graduated probability measure in the form of a score that determines the likelihood of a particular event occurring; however, this approach focuses upon static risk factors and tends to be inflexible given its necessary reliance on nomothetic factors. A third approach, structured professional judgement comprises evidence-based risk factors and decision-making guidelines to inform professional judgement and standardize assessments. Instruments focus upon dynamic risk factors that assist practitioners monitor risk levels and manage risk. This approach is useful for social work practice that commonly requires ongoing risk assessments and risk management. Structured professional judgement has not been meaningfully explored in Australian child protection practice despite it being used successfully for approximately two decades for assessing a range of offending and violent behaviour. Given the complexity of child protection cases, further research on approaches to risk assessment that combine evidence-based research, structured assessment and clinical judgement, is warranted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)660 - 669
Number of pages10
JournalChild & Family Social Work
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2017


  • structured professional judgement
  • Risk assessment
  • Child Protection

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