Clinical Assessment of Child and Adolescent Personality and Behavior 3rd Edition

Paul J. Frick

Christopher T. Barry

Randy W. Kamphaus

Springer 2010

Clinical Assessment of Child and Adolescent Personality and Behavior is the latest edition of the immensely useful graduate text by Dr. Paul Frick, University Research Professor and chair of the Psychology Department at University of New Orleans. Coauthors are Dr. Christopher Barry of the University of Southern Mississippi and Dr. Randy Kamphaus, Dean of Education at Georgia State University.

The 3rd edition of Clinical Assessment fulfills its promise of providing an uncluttered, straightforward review and critique of current techniques. The authors embed their review in a lucid, understandable description of the theoretical and applied context that psychologists must always keep in mind.

Dr. Paul Frick told the Times, “This book was based on all three authors’ frustration in teaching courses on the psychological assessment of children and adolescents, finding that existing textbooks were not serving us well. Most of them were encyclopedic, edited volumes that were uneven in the quality across chapters…” And he continued, they were “…not geared either in format or level of presentation for beginning graduate instruction.”

In the preface of the text, the authors note that the goal of psychological assessment is to measure constructs that have important clinical implications. “But what is important from this conceptualization,” they write, “is that our view of psychological assessment is not test-driven but construct-driven.” And, “…the most critical component in choosing a method of assessment and in interpreting assessment data is understanding what one is trying to measure.”

Clinical Assessment provides an ease of delivery that makes this text perfect for psychologists in training. The writing style is clear and free from meaningless jargon. The authors strip everything down to the essential elements of the problem. Echoing throughout the text are the themes of evidenced-base practice and construct validity and informed use of measurement results. Experienced psychologists who find it difficult to keep pace with the rapidly changing landscape of child and adolescent assessment (and who doesn’t) will discover Clinical Assessment to be an excellent source of authoritative information and advice that can be quickly referenced without having to wade through muddy water.

The coauthors make a very convincing first-string team of experts. Barry is the specialist. Kamphaus is an expert in test development and author of BASC-2 (Behavior Assessment System for Children-2). Paul Frick is a leading authority in child and adolescent diagnosis and behavior. “Currently I am serving on the ADHD and Disruptive Disorders Workgroup for the 5th Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” he told the Times, “which is due to be published by the American Psychiatric Association in May of 2013.”

His presentation at APA in August was a convention highlight, “Possible changes to the criteria for the Disruptive Behavior Disorders for the DSM-V: Rationale and implications.” He is the editor of the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, and also president of the Society for the Scientific Study of Psychopathy. His research in children and adolescent psychology has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation.

Clinical Assessment of Child and Adolescent Personality and Behavior covers a lot of ground efficiently. Chapters are formatted consistently with questions in the introduction and a summary of concepts at the end. Descriptions and discussion of critical issues are supported by references to key research, diagnostic contexts, and evidenced-based practice decisions.

In Part I, “Basic Issues,” authors give the overriding framework in a succinct presentation. It rings throughout the text: psychologists must understand tests, but also must understand what they are trying to measure, the context, and threats to validity. Chapters include topics of historical trends, measurement issues, classification and developmental psychopathology, standards and fairness, and planning the evaluation and rapport building.

The next nine chapters, Part II “Assessment Methods,” include reviews and critiques of self-report inventories, parent/teacher rating scales, behavioral observations systems, peer-referenced techniques, projective techniques, structured interviews, history taking methods, family assessments, and adaptive behavior scales. Each chapter format gives the context and relationship to the construct, and then the authors review current tests, reliability, validity, norms, and a list of strengths and weaknesses of the measure and potential threats to validity.

In Part III, “Advanced Topics,” the authors cover assessment of attention deficit, disruptive behavior disorders, depression, anxiety and autism spectrum disorders. The chapters on “Integrating and Interpreting Assessment Information,” and “Report Writing,” again call upon the reader to use a broad footing in psychological constructs, critical-thinking, as well as practical and common-sense views.

What did Paul enjoy most about writing the book? “The most enjoyable aspect of writing this book,” Paul told the Times, “is it forces us [the authors] to stay upto- date on the most current assessment tools used in the psychological testing of children and adolescents. This is also the most difficult aspect of writing this type of textbook. There are always new assessment measures being developed and older ones being updated; thus, such textbooks require frequent revisions.”

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