skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 74489 Find in a Library
Title: Measuring the Severity of Self-Reported Delinquency - The Development of a Seriousness Scale
Journal: Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology  Volume:71  Issue:4  Dated:(Winter 1980)  Pages:637-644
Author(s): R P Kern; W D Bales
Date Published: 1980
Page Count: 9
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This study adopted scaling techniques developed within the field of psychophysics and applied them to the evaluation of relative perceived seriousness of generically phrased offense items on a delinquency index of self-reported deviant behavior.
Abstract: Victimless and public order offenses were also considered. To control for possible unknown response biases such as queuing effect, offense items were randomized into different rank orderings which resulted in three categorical and three magnitude questionnaires containing varied offense sequencing. Judges were 172 undergraduate criminology students (85 categorical and 87 magnitude). Offense items included murder, rape, breaking and entering, and car theft among others. Consistent with the belief that offense phrasing specificity in self-report surveys may precipitate problems, the offense descriptions used in this inquiry contained phrases representing property values within monetary ranges of $10 to $100: a power function for monetary value was derived. Subjects perceived all the violent personal crimes (murder, rape, etc.) as more serious than all property, public order, or victimless offenses. Moreover, weapon usage doubled the perceived seriousness rating of the robbery offense. Status offenses were all perceived as being of minor relative importance. It was established empirically that the offense severity scale values were obtained by discrimination processes similar to those occurring in sensory psychophysics and therefore validate scale results. The derived severity scale values are readily applicable to data collected from most self-report instruments. Areas of concern for future research involve the selection of offense items, refinement of monetary values, and selection of study subjects. By using judges who both respond to a self-report inventory and who evaluate the relative seriousness of all acts appearing on the instrument it may be possible to empirically determine whether a respondent's perceived seriousness evaluation of particular items is influenced by admitted involvement in the act. Over 40 notes, tables, and figures are appended.
Index Term(s): Assault and battery; Crimes against persons; Juvenile Delinquency seriousness scales; Research; Self reported crimes; Theft offenses; Victimless crimes; Weapons violations
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.