Name:  Kayla Wanamaker

Kayla Wanamaker 

Area of Study: Forensic

In what program are you currently enrolled? PhD

What year of the program are you currently in? 5th

Citation in APA format

Wanamaker, K. A., Jones, N. J., & Brown, S. L. (2018). Strengths-based assessments
for use with forensic populations: A critical review. International Journal of Forensic Mental Health, 17(2), 202-221. doi: 10.1080/14999013.2018.1451414


Plain language abstract:

With the emergence of positive psychology, correctional researchers have begun to incorporate strengths into risk assessment practices in an effort to understand why some high-risk individuals have the ability to avoid engaging in delinquent or criminal actions. Accordingly, the current article reviews eight offender assessment tools that either (1) incorporate strengths in addition to the traditionally measured set of risks/needs, or (2) were specifically designed as strength assessment protocols to be used alongside risk/needs tools. Although evidence is mixed, there is some support for the inclusion of strengths in risk assessment with the objective of improving predictive accuracy and providing valuable case planning information. Given definitional discrepancies in the literature with respect to how strengths are measured and conceptualized, further research is required to understand the specific manner in which strengths interact with established risk factors across various offender populations.


How did the idea for this research come about? 

After several discussions with my supervisor, and after conducting a literature review for my dissertation, it became clear that the use of strengths-based practices in correctional settings have been conceptualized and infused in risk assessment protocols in many different ways. Specifically, there has been debate on how strengths are defined, how they operate in risk assessment practices, and whether or not they add incrementally to the prediction of recidivism. As such, we decided that a review of the literature is needed highlighting the history of strengths, the definitional issues, and how various risk assessment instruments have incorporated strengths (and corresponding research that has been conducted).

How did you collect the data for this project? 

Because this was a review article primary data collection was not done. Rather this project included a rigorous search strategy (e.g., similar to what would be used when conducting a meta-analysis), whereby key words were searched across several databases and inclusion/exclusion criteria was determined a priori. Specifically risk assessment tools were only selected for inclusion in the review if they (1) incorporate strengths alongside risk and need factors, or measure strengths exclusively to supplement traditional risk assessment protocols, and (2) have at least two longitudinal or prospective research studies that examine the strengths-based items’ ability to predict recidivism among a forensic sample.

Was the journal you published in the first journal you submitted this paper to?



Why did you choose this journal?

The International Journal of Forensic Mental Health was the best fit for our review article because this journal focuses on a variety of forensic issues (including those involving risk assessment) across various offender populations (e.g., youth, adult, forensic inpatient, etc.). In addition, this journal provided an international platform for disseminating our research results. Given that many of the tools discussed in our review were studied and developed with various offender populations across various countries, this journal seemed like a perfect fit. In addition, this journal had previously published articles on strengths and strengths-based practices.


How many other journals did you submit this paper to before it landed in the journal that eventually published your work?


What was your revision experience?

Overall the manuscript was greatly improved. The revision experience was quite demanding with extensive revisions required. Essentially the scope, and to some extent, the goal of the review changed from the first submitted version. An additional literature search was needed. Although the revisions were quite exhaustive, we received really thoughtful and thorough feedback from reviewers, which led to a manuscript that was much more focused and stronger than the initial submission.


How many rounds of revision did you experience?


Did you need to collect new data to satisfy a reviewer?


How long did it take from first submission to acceptance? 

14 months

Was this paper conducted as part of your MA thesis?


Was this paper conducted as part of your PhD dissertation?


How did this project come about?

Initially this project was an Independent study. However, the manuscript changed quite a bit from when it was my Independent study to the time of submission.

Was this research conducted with your supervisor?

Yes, with Dr. Shelley Brown

Was this research conducted with fellow graduate students in our program? 


Was this research conducted with researchers external to Carleton?

Dr. Natalie Jones (Carleton Graduate)