Assessing Risk of Family Violence by Young People: Identifying Recidivism Base Rates and the Validity of the VP-SAFvR for Youth

Published date01 August 2023
AuthorA. Sheed,T. Mcewan,N. Papalia,B. Spivak,M. Simmons
Date01 August 2023
Subject MatterArticles
CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR, 2023, Vol. 50, No. 8, August 2023, 1079 –1101.
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© 2023 International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology
Identifying Recidivism Base Rates and the Validity of
the VP-SAFvR for Youth
Swinburne University of Technology and Forensicare
Court Services Victoria
Swinburne University of Technology and Forensicare
University of Kent
Swinburne University of Technology and Forensicare, Australia
Police-reported incidents of youth family violence have been increasing in frequency yet limited research exists about how
best to risk assess this cohort. The present study examined the validity of the Victoria Police Screening Assessment for Family
Violence Risk (VP-SAFvR) for Australian youth aged 10 to 24 years (n = 4,999) reported to police for using family violence.
The 6-month base rate of family violence recidivism was 24.24% for same-dyad recidivism and 35.31% for any-dyad
recidivism. The VP-SAFvR demonstrated moderate discriminative validity (area under the curve [AUC] = .65) for the total
sample and comparable discriminative validity across age (AUCs = .64-.67), gender (AUCs = .63-.65), and relationship (i.e.,
child-to-parent abuse, sibling abuse, intimate partner abuse; AUCs = .62-.65). Predictive validity was adequate at a threshold
score of four for 10- to 24-year olds and most subgroups. Results demonstrate the utility of a structured risk triage tool for
youth family violence.
Keywords: family violence; youth; child-to-parent abuse; sibling abuse; intimate partner abuse; risk assessment
AUTHORS’ NOTE: This study involves secondary analysis of data from a larger project, as described in the
“Method” section. The specific ideas and data analyses presented in this work have not previously been pub-
lished or presented. The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose. A.S. was supported through an
Australian Postgraduate Research Award Scholarship. N.P. is supported through an Australian Research
Council Early Career Researcher Award (DE220100147) grant. These funding sources had no role in the
design, collection, analysis, and interpretation of data, the writing of the manuscript, and the decision to submit
the article for publication. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to A. Sheed, 582
Heidelberg Road, Center for Forensic Behavioral Science, Swinburne University of Technology and
Forensicare, Alphington, Victoria, 3078 Australia; e-mail:
1170799CJBXXX10.1177/00938548231170799Criminal Justice and BehaviorSheed et al./Validity of the VP-SAFvR for Youth Family Violence
Incidents of police-reported youth family violence have increased in recent years
(Phillips & McGuinness, 2020; Walker & Woerner, 2018), yet abusive behavior by
young people remains significantly under-reported (Fitz-Gibbon et al., 2018; Kuay &
Towl, 2021). While the negative effects of youth family violence have been well docu-
mented internationally (Ackard et al., 2007; Farrington & Ttofi, 2021; Fitz-Gibbon et al.,
2018; Kuay & Towl, 2021), there is relatively little research examining how best to risk
assess and manage young people who engage in abusive behavior within the family con-
text. Broad definitions of family violence are increasingly used across various jurisdic-
tions (Freeman, 2018; Jolliffe Simpson et al., 2021; Miles & Condry, 2016; Spivak et al.,
2021) in recognition of the diverse behaviors that can be abusive and the diverse relation-
ships in which such behavior can be enacted. Family violence includes abuse toward rela-
tives (e.g., parents, siblings, other relatives) and abusive behavior toward dating or
intimate partners, encompassing both physical (e.g., physical assault, sexual assault) and
nonphysical (e.g., psychological abuse) behavior. Many jurisdictions recognize the capac-
ity for family violence to include behavior that is not associated with criminal charges
(Jolliffe Simpson et al., 2021; Miles & Condry, 2016; Spivak et al., 2021). For example,
in the Australian state of Victoria, family violence is defined broadly in the Family
Violence Protection Act (2008) as involving physical, sexual, or a variety of psychologi-
cal forms of abuse. Only half (50.8%) of all police-recorded family violence incidents in
Victoria between 2020 and 2021 involved a criminal offense for which charges were laid
(Crime Statistics Agency, 2021).
Within the youth family violence literature, child-to-parent abuse, intimate partner abuse,
and sibling abuse, are the most commonly studied forms of abusive behavior. Approximately,
8% to 10% of all police-reported family violence involves the use of abusive behavior by
young people aged under 18 years (Phillips & McGuinness, 2020; Snyder & McCurley,
2008), with approximately 60% of incidents involving abuse toward a parent (i.e., child-to-
parent abuse; Phillips & McGuinness, 2020), 8% to 16% involving abuse toward a boy-
friend or girlfriend, and 16% to 24% involving sibling abuse (Boxall & Sabol, 2021; Snyder
& McCurley, 2008). Similar to findings from the adult literature, research examining police-
reported youth family violence disproportionately involve males engaging in abusive
behavior toward females, with this gendered pattern being observed across all relational
forms of youth family violence (Boxall & Sabol, 2021; Phillips & McGuinness, 2020;
Simmons et al., 2018; Snyder & McCurley, 2008). In addition, the prevalence of different
relational forms of abuse vary according to age, with police-reported intimate partner abuse
increasing, and child-to-parent abuse decreasing, as young people progress from adoles-
cence into young adulthood (Snyder & McCurley, 2008).
The literature examining youth family violence is growing rapidly, yet there has been
relatively little application of this knowledge to the field of risk assessment. Children and
young people have consistently been recognized within the family violence literature as
some of the most vulnerable victims of violence and abuse (Australian Institute of Health
and Welfare [AIHW], 2018; Farrington & Ttofi, 2021), yet there has been a reticence to
acknowledge the propensity for young people to also engage in abusive behavior them-
selves. This has often meant family violence behavior by youth has been subsumed under
the banner of problematic adolescent behavior, leading to an absence of appropriately vali-
dated risk assessment tools for young people.

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