Stephen Case slide presentation by d9n1aQO

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									The contested nature of
 risk factor research
       Dr Steve Case
     Swansea University
 The Risk Factor Research debate

Risks are quantifiable, objective, value-fee and scientific ‘facts’
     with a consistent, predictable relationship with offending

 Proponents                             Opponents
 •   Scientific (control, positivist)   •   Anti-positivist
 •   Clinical (objective, treatable)    •   Unethical
 •   Validated & replicated             •   Strengths misrepresented
 •   Practical, atheoretical            •   Poorly-understood
                                        •   Clumsily implemented
Methodological paradoxes of RFR
Simplistic over-simplification
• Factorisation, developmental bias, psychosocial
  reductionism, aggregation, homogenisation, imputation

Definitive indefinity
• Lack of consensus over how to understand ‘risk factors’,
  ‘offending’ and the nature of the risk factor-offending
  relationship (e.g. causal or predictive)

Replicable incomparability
• Replicability does not imply comparability
     Simplistic over-simplification
• Artefact risk factor research and risk factorology
• transformation of individual, personal & social ‘risk’ info into
  ‘factors’ amenable to probabilistic (statistical) calculation
• over-simplifies the risk factor-offending relationship
• replication (statistical reliability) over validity
• imputation over explanation
• ‘vague, inadequate proxies for putative causal processes’
  (O’Mahony 2008).

• lack of attention to the active human agent
• transforming a dynamic, interactive set of risk processes into
  static relationships and treating diverse phenomena (e.g.
  unemployment, attitudes) as if they were equivalent variables
  (Pitts 2003)
     Psychosocial reductionism
• ‘the psychogenic antecedents of criminal behaviour’
  (Armstrong 2004: 103) in individualised domains of family,
  school, peers, neighbourhood, lifestyle & psychological
• Neglects constructions of risk, socio-structural factors (e.g.
  societal access routes to opportunities), social exclusion &
  the impact of locally-specific policy formations
• Partial (in the dual sense of limited and biased)
  understanding & explanation of youth offending.
The Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development
• ‘Explanatory’ RFs at age 8-10 years statistically-predict
  offending at age 14-15
• ASB in childhood, hyperactivity-impulsivity-attention deficit,
  low intelligence & low school achievement, family
  criminality, family poverty, poor parenting
 The homogenisation of ‘offending’
• Offending as a broad & homogenous category
• Little exploration of RFs for specific offences
• Offending v Reoffending

Offending, Crime & Justice Survey (Budd et al 2005)
• Frequent offending: 6+ different offences in past year
• Serious offending: any of 6 serious offences (vehicle theft,
  burglary, robbery, theft from person, assault resulting in
  injury, selling class A drugs)

The Home Office Youth Lifestyle Survey (Graham & Bowling 1995)
• Ever (lifetime offending) or last year (active)
    Definitive indefinity: What is a RF?
•   Causal –determine or cause offending
•   Predictive – increase statistical probability of offending
•   Linear –operate on a continuum or scale
•   Multiplicative, cumulative or additive - more RFs =
    more likely to offend
•   Interactive – different combinations of RFs may exert
    different effects when experienced together
•   Overlapping – correlated with each other & both related
    to offending, but neither having ‘temporal precedence’
•   Correlational
•   Multi-stage - increase the likelihood of another RF
•   Proxy – correlated with RFs for offending
•   Challenging – inoculate against RFs
•   Symptomatic – the outcomes of offending
   Causal or predictive risk factors?
• ‘The claim that past behave is the best predictor of future
  behaviour does not mean that past behaviour causes future
  behaviour’ (Wikstrom, in King and Wincup 2008: 133)
• Systematic manipulation of independent variables & control of
  potentially extraneous variables allows scientific researchers
  to identify 'cause and effect’ relationships
• Lack of detailed understanding of risk factor influence on any
  level, descriptive, exploratory or explanatory, other than
  statistical. Causation as regular associations.
• ‘The problem of causation tends to be sidestepped in risk-
  factor research, resulting in a kind of ‘black box’ explanation…
  whereby causal links are assumed rather than specified’
  (Porteus 2007: 271-272)
Asset: Risk assessment in the YJS
• Practitioners must make quantitative judgements:
• To what extent are RFs in each domain associated with
  ‘the likelihood of further offending’?
• (0 = no association, 1 = slight or limited indirect
  association, 2 = moderate direct or indirect association, 3 =
  quite strong association, normally direct, 4 = very strong,
  clear and direct association)
• Was the issue linked to past offending?
• Is there a direct or indirect link with offending?
• Is the link to offending consistent or occasional?
• Is the effect on offending likely to be immediate or over a
  longer period?
• Will the issue lead to offending on its own or only when
  other conditions exist?
         Indefinitive temporality
• Measurement of RFs at time A & offending at time B, or;
• Exposure to risk & offending over a set period of time
  (e.g. 12 months)
• Crude, insensitive temporal measures
• Limited attention to the precise timings of exposure to
  risk factors & offending behaviour
• Statistical association & time-ordering are necessary, but
  not sufficient, to establish causation without explanatory
  mechanisms (Wikstrom 2008)
The Sex Differences in ASB Study (Moffitt et al 2001)
• Measurement of all (except 5) risk predictors has pre-
  dated the measurement of adolescent antisocial
  behaviour (assessed between the ages of 13 and 18).
        Replicable incomparability
• ‘the most important risk factors are replicable over time and
  place’ (Farrington 2003: 5).
• Aggregated diffs between homogenised groups neglects
  within-individual change, contextual- or cultural-specificity
• replicability does not imply commonality
ASB and Young People (Rutter et al 1998)
• Prospective longitudinal designs - ‘causal questions’
• Risk mechanisms (‘causal’ risk factors) & risk indicators
  (factors associated indirectly with the causal process).
The International Self-Reported Delinquency study
• Anglo-American, North West European, Southern European
• ‘It seems clear that biological, cultural, socialization and
  environmental factors all play a role in the prediction of
  delinquent behaviour’
   Conclusion: The validity of RFR
• relies inordinately on measuring & analysing risk as a
  broadly-phrased, quantitative factor aggregated across
  groups, thus encouraging a focus on the replication of
  statistical differences between-groups rather than within-
  individual changes;
• dominated by deterministic & probabilistic developmental
  understandings of predictive, childhood risk factors at the
  expense of alternative & more holistic, complex explanations;
• lacks coherence & a clear, well-developed understanding of
  its central concepts, namely the definition of risk factors &
  the nature of their relationship with offending;
• produces findings that are applied uncritically & over-
  simplistically by policy makers more interested in broad
  headlines than addressing the details & research limitations;
• has neglected (yet imputed) two crucial issues: the validity
  of risk to the real lives of different young people &
  explanation of relationships between risk & youth offending.

								
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