A classification tree approach to the development of actuarial violence risk assessment tools

Henry J. Steadman, Eric Silver, John Monahan, Paul S. Appelbaum, Pamela Clark Robbins, Edward P. Mulvey, Thomas Grisso, Loren H. Roth, Steven Banks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

344 Scopus citations


Since the 1970s, a wide body of research has suggested that the accuracy of clinical risk assessments of violence might be increased if clinicians used actuarial tools. Despite considerable progress in recent years in the development of such tools for violence risk assessment, they remain primarily research instruments, largely ignored in daily clinical practice. We argue that because most existing actuarial tools are based on a main effects regression approach, they do not adequately reflect the contingent nature of the clinical assessment processes. To enhance the use of actuarial violence risk assessment tools, we propose a classification tree rather than a main effects regression approach. In addition, we suggest that by employing two decision thresholds for identifying high- and low-risk cases - instead of the standard single threshold - the use of actuarial tools to make dichotomous risk classification decisions may be further enhanced. These claims are supported with empirical data from the MacArthur Violence Risk Assessment Study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)83-100
Number of pages18
JournalLaw and human behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • General Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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