Redesigning the Central Eight: Introducing the M-PACT Six

Published date01 October 2021
Date01 October 2021
Subject MatterArticles
Redesigning the Central Eight:
Introducing the M-PACT Six
Xiaohan Mei
, Zachary Hamilton
, Melissa Kowalski
and Alex Kigerl
Since their seminal work, Andrews and Bonta outlined the Central Eight assessment domains. As the
landscape and utility of criminal justice assessments extended, tool developers expanded upon their
initial development principles searching to further risk prediction gains. However, often overlooked
in recent advancements is the foundation and usage of associated needs assessments. As a critical
component of contemporary tools, particularly for youth, results of needs assessments identify and
prioritize program placement. These additional tools comprise domain subscales that represent
common predictors of need. Due to their latent nature, need assessment requires careful devel-
opment and assessments of construct validity. While important, examinations of construct validity
are seldom completed for contemporary tools, and their results rarely used for meaningful tool
improvements. The current study describes the needs assessment development of the Modified
Positive Achievement Change Tool (MPACT). Substantial psychometric evidence of construct
validity is provided, describing the tool’s updated, six needs constructs.
validity evidence on internal latent structure, risk-needs assessments validation, central eight, juve-
nile justice, evidence-based practices
Contemporary Risk-Needs Assessments (RNAs) used in justice systems today apply the Risk-Need-
Responsivity (RNR) principles in an effort to appropriately supervise and provide programming in
an attempt to reduce recidivism (Andrews & Bonta, 2010). A recent review identified that 42 states
have adopted an RNA statewide to assist in the provision of evidence-based practices (EBPs;
Juvenile Justice Geography & Policy Practice and Statistics, 2020). Further, these tools standardize
the delivery of EBPs, identifying those with greater criminogenic needs. When used efficiently,
RNAs enable agencies to match youth to interventions as well as promote positive changes and
public safety. As such, assessment of youth risk, estimation of needs, and consideration of
School of Criminal Justice and Criminalistics, California State University, Los Angeles, CA, USA
School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Nebraska Omaha, NE, USA
Department of Criminal Justice, California State University, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Xiaohan Mei, School of Criminal Justice and Criminalistics, California State University, Los Angeles, CA 90032, USA.
Youth Violence and JuvenileJustice
2021, Vol. 19(4) 445-470
ªThe Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/15412040211014264
characteristics that impact responses to programming are part of a contemporary RNR approach
(Andrews & Bonta, 2010; Andrews et al., 2006).
To date, tool developers have focused almost exclusively on risk prediction in an attempt to
maximize predictive validity (Skeem et al., 2013; Taxman, 2017). However, beginning with the
development of the “Central Eight” (Andrews et al., 2006; see Andrews & Bonta, 2010), most
contemporary RNAs provide a “needs assessment,” representing a subset of scores used to identify
dynamic changes during supervision and to refer youth to programming. Unlike risk assessments, a
needs assessment captures changeable behaviors assumed to be influenced by programming and
services (Vincent et al., 2012). Theoretically complex tools, typical of RNAs today, add value to the
simple aggregate assessment of risk scores via needs constructs, helping to explain the correlates and
causes of recidivism (Skeem et al., 2013). Specified into subscales, these assessments are conceptual
and compartmentalize needs into criminogenic domains. However, needs domains are theoretical (or
latent) in nature, and domains must be constructed, somewhat independently, from risk tools devel-
oped with dynamic (or criminogenic) elements of an RNA’s content.
Research has recognized the potential negative consequences resulting from poorly developed
scales lacking construct validity (Taxman, 2017), which may include misestimation of individual
needs and resource misallocation (Skeem et al., 2017). Scales without construct validity may under-
mine a tool’s ability to inform correctional policies and practices (Singh et al., 2014). While
assessment domains are construc ted theoretically, empirical su pport is needed to confirm their
existence (Raykov & Marcoulides, 2011). When modifications to the theoretical construction are
identified, empirical findings can inform a new design. The current study outlines the redevelopment
of a well-known RNA—the Positive Achievement Change Tool (PACT). We refine and evaluate
needs domain constructs, including only dynamic items, as part of an updated tool development—
the Modified Positive Achievement Change Tool (MPACT).
Review of the Literature
We begin by outlining the concept of construct validity, describing its importance in needs scale
construction. Next, we review construct validity findings of existing RNAs with a specified focus on
youth assessment. We conclude our review by describing empirical findings needed to advance
RNA development, outlining the current study focus.
RNR and youth assessment. Within the RNR framework, the Risk principle dictates that youth receive
supervisionand programmingat a level that matchestheir risk; wherein,higher risk youth areprioritized
and most likely tobenefit (Andrews & Dowden, 2006;Lowenkamp et al., 2006). The Needsprinciple
arguesthat criminogenic needs, or dynamicrisk factors, should be thetargets of intervention. Following
the assessment of a youth’s needs, the type of intervention is matched to an individual, and in turn,
lessens theirrisk for recidivism (Responsivityprinciple). Accordingto Andrews and Bonta (2010), it is
the reduction of needs thatis associated with decreased criminal conduct.
The central eight and construct validity. Youth RNA application has increased substantially in the last 3
decades; however, many RNAs were developed for adult offenders and later modified for justice-
involved youth. Most RNAs have roots in the Level of Service Inventory—Revised (LSI-R) and the
creation of the Central Eight (Jung & Ruwana, 1999; Wormith & Bonta, 2017). Advanced for its
time, the LSI-R tool was develo ped with 10 domains used to iden tify a person’s level of risk
(Andrews & Bonta, 1995). Seven of these domains (antisocial personality, cognitions, and associa-
tions as well as family/marital, sch ool/work, leisure/recreation, and su bstance use issues) were
identified as criminogenic needs domains (Andrews & Bonta, 2010). Yet, the Central Eight’s
development was somewhat conceptual and based on items’ face validity, lacking empirical
446 Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice 19(4)

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