Structured approaches to violence risk assessment: A critical review

Michael Brook*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


This article critically reviews the theory, methodology, and empirical evidence pertaining to the various approaches employed by mental health professionals in expert testimony regarding the probability of future violence for people within the jurisprudence system. Many professionals rely on unstructured clinical assessment, which allows the evaluator to fully capitalize on their clinical experience but is vulnerable to cognitive and situational biases that negatively affect the validity and reliability of the evaluation. In contrast, actuarial assessment involves statistical estimation of violence risk based on certain combinations of criminogenic variables derived from prospective analysis of recidivism in various offender groups. Structured professional judgment relies on professional expertise with a structured checklist application, and thus attempts to minimize the limitations of unstructured clinical and actuarial assessment while retaining the strengths of each. Although an improvement on unstructured assessment, structured applications have significant limitations, highlighting the importance of a multimethod approach to violence risk assessment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)454-459
Number of pages6
JournalPsychiatric Annals
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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