Notre Dame researchers’ new violence risk assessment tool featured in Journal of Crime and Justice

Author: Luis Ruuska

Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Copyright (2008) University of Notre Dame.

An article, co-authored in part by two researchers at the Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development (NDIGD), which details the creation of a new violence risk assessment tool in Honduras, has been published in the Journal of Crime and Justice, the official, peer-reviewed journal of the Midwestern Criminal Justice Association.

The article, “Identifying high-risk young adults for violence prevention: a validation of psychometric and social scales in Honduras,” details the creation of the new Violence-Involved Persons Risk Assessment (VIP-RA) tool; an aggregate of seven psychometric and social risk assessment tools previously validated in various American and European contexts.

The article was co-authored by Tom Hare, a senior technical associate at NDIGD; Juan Carlos Guzman, formerly a research and learning senior associate at NDIGD; and Laura Miller-Graff, an assistant professor of psychology and peace studies in the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. NDIGD and the Kroc Institute are both housed within Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs.

“Global development projects and programs need to not only identify communities at risk of crime and violence, but the individuals within those communities who are most at risk of becoming involved in violence, either as victims or perpetrators,” explains Hare. “By using previously validated tools, we wanted to see if we could identify the primary characteristics of those most at risk in high violence contexts like Honduras; a country that has been consistently ranked as one of the most violent countries in the world over the last decade.”

The researchers initially included eight tools as subscales within the VIP-RA tool and worked with a number of local groups and researchers to determine how best to linguistically and culturally translate the subscales for a Honduran context. The researchers then interviewed over 1,200 young adults (ages 16-30) in Tegucigalpa over a one-month period to validate the tool.

After the survey period, the researchers removed questions from subscales that showed weak reliability or validity, reducing the original number of questions included in the VIP-RA tool from 156 to 89. Only one subscale was removed completely from the tool.

The revised version of the VIP-RA tool is able to measure several primary characteristics of at risk youth in high violence contexts, including emotion regulation, depression, post-traumatic stress, and resilience, among others. The researchers found that young adults involved in violence, either as victims of perpetrators, exhibited more signs of post-traumatic stress and depression. Additionally, the researchers found that young adults uninvolved in violence showed more signs of emotional regulation and factors associated with resilience.

“In addition to contributing to our knowledge about the characteristics of violence-involved youth in Honduras, this research and the VIP-RA tool can be used by other programs and organizations to focus their development interventions on the needs of those most at risk of becoming violence-involved,” explains Hare.

The article was written as part of NDIGD’s “Supporting USAID Impact Evaluation in Honduras” project. As part of this project, NDIGD is working with Dexis Consulting Group and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Honduras mission to evaluate development interventions in Honduras that seek to increase citizen security. The article was accepted for publication by the Journal of Crime and Justice in February 2018 and will be formally published in print later this year.

Hare's research primarily examines rule of law and human rights programs in Central America. His experience in design, implementation, and evaluation of international development programs includes work funded by the Department of State, USAID, the United Nations, and private donors. His book on citizen security policies in Central America, Zonas Peligrosas: The Challenge of Creating Safe Neighborhoods in Central America (Fordham University Press), is due out in 2018.

The Journal of Crime and Justice encompasses “a wide array of criminology and criminal justice topics and issues,” including motives for crime, issues related to the juvenile and criminal justice systems, and policy development and implementation, among other topics and issues.

The Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development—an integral part of the Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame—promotes human development and dignity among people worldwide through applied innovations, impact evaluation, education, and training that help build just and equitable societies.

Contact: Luis Ruuska, communications specialist, Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development,