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Socially desirable responding and psychometric assessment of dynamic risk in sexual offenders against children

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Does socially desirable responding (SDR) represent a threat to the validity of dynamic risk assessment in sex offenders’ self-reports? We studied a sample of men (N = 218) who completed a psychometric assessment battery while enrolled at Kia Marama, a prison-based treatment program for sexual offenders against children. SDR, as measured by the Marlowe-Crowne scale, was elevated compared to non-offender samples, increased from pre- to post-treatment, and was negatively correlated with dynamic risk (rs = −.30 to −.40), consistent with previous research. Measures of dynamic risk factors derived from the psychometric battery were correlated with sexual recidivism, but correlations were little changed when variance associated with SDR was removed using a regression procedure [Mills, J. F., & Kroner, D. G. (2006). Impression management and self-report among violent offenders. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 21(2), 178–192.]. These results suggest that there is a substantial component of the variance in psychometric self-reports of sexual offenders that is associated with SDR (approximately 10%), but that it does not compromise the predictive or construct validity of dynamic risk measures derived from these reports.
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Keywords: Child molesters; dynamic risk factors; recidivism; risk assessment; sexual offenders; socially desirable responding

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand 2: Department of Psychology, Reed College, Portland, OR, USA

Publication date: May 27, 2016

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