Scope of Problem and Need for Standardized Questionnaires

Youth are the sector of the population most vulnerable to criminal victimization. Adolescents are victimized at two to three times the rate of adults and experience assaults that are as equally injurious as those perpetrated against adults (Wells and Rankin, 1995). Available data on children under age 12 suggest that they also experience high levels of victimization (Finkelhor and Hashima, 2001; Selner-O’Hagan et al., 1998; Straus et al., 1998).

Statistics like these and such events as the Columbine school shootings have greatly increased interest in the characteristics of crimes against children.

Professionals who work with children are the natural leaders to spearhead efforts to document the rates of child victimization and to implement interventions aimed at reducing it. These professionals include (but are not limited to) child abuse evaluation team members, juvenile court intake workers, child and family therapists, trauma counselors, forensic interviewers, violence prevention specialists, police officers (especially those who work with juveniles, such as school resource officers), and researchers.

Increasingly, professionals who work with children are expected not only to design intervention and prevention programs but also to monitor victimization patterns among their clients and evaluate the effectiveness of programs ranging from school-based violence prevention to therapy for traumatized children. The growing interest in monitoring patterns and evaluating outcomes has generated an increasing number of questionnaire measures of juvenile victimization, developed for a variety of specific research, clinical, and public policy needs. These questionnaires elicit considerable information about how many victims there are and how best to identify them. For example, questionnaires have established that the majority of ordinary school children see or experience violence, that caretakers will often tell interviewers about violent acts they have inflicted on their own children, and that juveniles will disclose experiences of sexual assault. Not all questionnaires are appropriate for all purposes, however, and identifying and choosing from among the wide array of options can be time-consuming and difficult. This Bulletin is intended to ease the process of identifying and locating the questionnaire that is best suited for varying situations. It notes the benefits of questionnaires, presents guidelines for selecting questionnaires, and reviews selected questionnaires related to the major forms of victimization (see tables 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

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Choosing and Using Child Victimization Questionnaires Juvenile Justice Bulletin March 2001