Performance of protective factors assessment in risk prediction for adults: systematic review and meta-analysis

Laura E. O'Shea, Geoffrey L. Dickens

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Protective factors are neglected in risk assessment in adult psychiatric and criminal justice populations. This review investigated the predictive efficacy of selected tools that assess protective factors. Five databases were searched using comprehensive terms for records up to June 2014, resulting in 17 studies (n = 2,198). Results were combined in a multilevel meta-analysis using the R (R Core Team, R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria: R Foundation for Statistical Computing, 2015) metafor package (Viechtbauer, Journal of Statistical Software, 2010, 36, 1). Prediction of outcomes was poor relative to a reference category of violent offending, with the exception of prediction of discharge from secure units. There were no significant differences between the predictive efficacy of risk scales, protective scales, and summary judgments. Protective factor assessment may be clinically useful, but more development is required. Claims that use of these tools is therapeutically beneficial require testing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126–138
Number of pages13
JournalClinical Psychology: Science and Practice
Issue number2
Early online date17 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2016


  • Protective factors
  • Risk assessment
  • Self-harm
  • Violence


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