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Revisiting the Reliability of Diagnostic Decisions in Sex Offender Civil Commitment

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Author(s): Richard L. Packard | Jill S. Levenson

Journal: Sexual Offender Treatment
ISSN 1862-2941

Volume: 1;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 2;
Date: 2006;
Original page

Keywords: sex offender | sexual predator | civil commitment | inter-rater reliability | DSM | diagnosis | kappa

ABSTRACT
Levenson (2004) investigated the inter-rater reliability of DSM-IV diagnoses commonly assessed by forensic evaluators in sex offender civil commitment proceedings and determined that the reliability of civil commitment selection (kappa = .54) and DSM-IV diagnostic categories (kappa = .23 - .70) were poor. The current study first reviews the limitations of using kappa in reliability studies and the reasons why the statistic may lead to paradoxical findings. Next, using Levenson’s data as a demonstration, alternative statistical analyses measuring raw proportions of agreement, odds and risk ratios, and estimated conditional probabilities were utilized to examine reliability. Agreement on the existence of the majority of the diagnosed disorders was rather high despite low values of kappa. The proportions of total agreement in diagnostic decisions ranged from 68% to 97%, indicating that, overall, civil commitment evaluations were a reliable process. The strengths and limitations of alternative methods of measuring inter-rater reliability are illustrated, and implications for policy and practice are discussed.
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