An observation checklist for use by residential social workers in juvenile justice institutions

Kore G. Lampe, Eva A. Mulder*, Robert R. JM Vermeiren, Olivier F. Colins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Summary: Structured observation can be valuable to complement self or parent reports used for diagnostic information or risk assessment, although this method is hardly used and understudied in residential forensic settings. To fill this void an observation checklist for residential social workers working in juvenile justice institutions was developed, along with an instruction manual and a training program. Findings: In the first two sections, this paper describes how an intensive collaboration between residential social workers, clinicians, researchers, and educators resulted in the development (1) and implementation (2) of an observation checklist for residential social workers. The observation checklist captures six concepts: Proactive and Reactive aggression, Hyperactivity, Impulsivity, Signs of depressed mood, and Lack of reciprocity. In a third, final section, this paper provides a preliminary evaluation of the inter-rater reliability of the six observation checklist concepts (3). Acceptable completion rates of the observation checklist by residential social workers were obtained and the training program resulted in reported improved professional expertise of residential social workers. Moreover, preliminary psychometric evaluation demonstrated acceptable to excellent inter-rater reliability, when expressed as percentage of agreement. Applications: In conclusion, this novel observation checklist offers a promising opportunity to collect information that can be used for diagnostic purposes. Limitations and recommendations for future research are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Social Work
Early online date2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2023

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