Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Doctor of Philosophy




Stewart, Shannon


Several assessment measures have been established in exploring the risk for recidivism among juvenile offenders; however, few have considered the holistic exploration of youth needs, and how these might implicate with the risk for delinquency. Extant research has illustrated the efficacy of the biopsychosocial framework in the investigation of individual needs. Paper one explores the use of this holistic model for the assessment of young offenders in providing greater insight into areas of risk, as well as mental health needs which are disproportionately present among this population. The interRAI suite are especially notable for their exploration of mental health and well-being, providing comprehensive and evidence-based interventions for service providers to inform treatment planning. Highlighting the importance for this comprehensive form of integrated assessment of young offenders is the aim of Paper One. Also unique to the interRAI suite of instruments has been the inclusion of youth strengths that have been cited as a major shortcoming among alternative and widely implemented youth assessment measures. The inclusion of strengths as a predictor of recidivism has been a hotly contested topic in juvenile justice literature. The aim of the second paper in this analysis first explored if there existed any significant differences between male and female identifying justice involved youth, in their reported strengths; followed by an exploration of the relationship between strengths and risk for delinquency. Lastly, the relationship between academic achievement and delinquency has been well established; however, few endeavours have explored the mechanisms which may expediate this relationship. Understanding how responsivity related factors influence justice involved youths’ education is pivotal given the life course implication of academic achievement on decreasing and/or exacerbating risk for continued delinquent behaviour forming the basis of the third paper of this dissertation. This research endeavour aims to further the discussion for the interRAI suite of instruments to support the accurate assessment and triaging of justice involved youth with the aim of fostering increased likelihood for positive outcomes.

Summary for Lay Audience

In the world of juvenile justice, a wealth of research has gone into determining the most effective strategy for the management and treatment of young offenders. The primary focus has remained determining the likelihood that a youth may continue their delinquent lifestyle, and wherein service providers can intervene to decrease that likelihood. As assessment tools have become further refined, a major shortcoming in these tools has been the limited exploration of the mental health needs that youth involved in the justice system are reported to disproportionately present with. To address this shortcoming, the first paper provides a strategy for accurate assessment of youth in the justice system that is holistic and produces a further polished process for management of young offenders traversing the justice system. While there has been ample research given to risk assessment, there has also been a discussion for the importance of using strengths as a way for not only predicting that a youth might reoffend, but also to use as an untapped source to foster rehabilitation. Unfortunately, the research on strengths and how effective they are in predicting if whether a youth will reoffend is sparse, and what makes it further challenging are gender and cultural nuances, which impact the way in which strengths are measured. In this study I attempt to explore self-reported areas of strength between male and female youth involved with the courts, and how these strengths are related with the risk for continuing to engage in criminal activity. For the final paper, the aim was to explore the implications of academic challenges on risk for continued involvement criminal activity. In addition, this paper sought to explore how factors like substance use, service use, mental health needs, and trauma which are already known to influence academic achievement might impact the relationship between school and a criminal lifestyle. Overall, the primary aim of this project is to further the discussion of young offender treatment. It is my belief that through implementation of the interRAI suite of instruments, a refined snapshot of youth needs, whether related to reoffending or mental health and well-being, can be obtained. Through such refined assessment can come greater treatment provision and in turn a decrease in the likelihood that a young person views a life of crime as more lucrative than a lawful one.

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