The authors selected the risk factor items of the WAVR-21 based upon rational consideration of the reliability and validity of accumulated research findings on violence risk and threat assessment. Empirical research concerning the WAVR-21 is intended to establish the inter-judge reliability of the instrument, and the validity of the instrument in relationship to current and future violent behavior in the workplace. Such research will take years to complete, be peer reviewed, published in scientific journals, and referenced on this site.
Workplace Assessment of Targeted Violence
Risk: The Development and Reliability of the
J. Reid Meloy, Ph.D., Stephen G. White, Ph.D. and Stephen Hart, Ph.D.
This first study published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences in 2013 describes the development of the WAVR-21, a structured professional judgment guide for the assessment of workplace targeted violence, and presents initial interrater reliability results. The 21-item instrument codes both static and dynamic risk factors and change, if any, over time. Five critical items or red flag indicators assess violent motives, ideation, intent, weapons skill, and pre-attack planning. Additional items assess the contribution of mental disorder, negative personality factors, situational factors, and a protective factor. Eleven raters each rated 12 randomly assigned cases from actual files of workplace threat scenarios. Summary interrater reliability correlation coefficients (ICCs) for overall presence of risk factors, risk of violence, and seriousness of the violent act were in the fair to good range, similar to other structured professional judgment instruments. A subgroup of psychologists who were coders produced an ICC of 0.76 for overall presence of risk factors. Some of the individual items had poor reliability for both clinical and statistical reasons. The WAVR-21 appears to improve the structuring and organizing of empirically based risk-relevant data and may enhance communication and decision making.
Validity Research: Some initial validity data on the WAVR-21 V3 now exists. A 2016 study examined the reliability and predictive validity of the WAVR-21, using the V3 Worksheet and risk indicators. The study was part of a larger research project analyzing the risk for violence in common workplace and post-secondary environments. Authors of the study are Dr. Mario Scalora (University of Nebraska-Lincoln), Dr. James Cawood (Factor One, Inc.), and Rosa Viñas-Racionero (University of Nebraska-Lincoln). The results are scheduled to be published in a peer-reviewed journal in 2017. In the study, three graduate clinical psychology students who had general knowledge in the area of threat assessment were specifically trained to code the WAVR-21 V3. The raters were instructed to use the instrument to assess the risk for future violence in 40 cases that had occurred in the above workplace and academic environments. The raters were blind to the actual outcome of the cases. A third of the cases involved physical violence.
Initial analyses of reliability of the WAVR-21 V3 yielded sound results in this study. The three raters showed substantial agreement when classifying the cases in risk categories (i.e., low, moderate, or high) (ICC = .84). Predictive validity scores were obtained from 120 ratings (3 coders coding 40 cases, which yielded a sample of 120 observations). The predictive accuracy of the instrument scores was examined through receiver operating characteristics (ROC) analysis. The AUC scores for the final risk categories on the WAVR-21 V3 suggested that the instrument had substantial predictive validity (AUC = .70). In addition, the final summary risk ratings score was significantly correlated with physical violence (rs = .35, p < .001), which further supports the ability of the instrument to accurately identify cases involving violence. These findings are well within the range of results found in validity studies of other structured professional judgment guides for the assessment of violence risk. According to the authors, “While the results of this study are still preliminary, the data converge to suggest that the WAVR-21 V3 would be a useful risk assessment measure of workplace violence in corporate organizations, educational environments, and government agencies.”
Planning and preparation for additional reliability studies and validity studies are now in progress. We invite those researchers who are independent of our self-interest in seeing the WAVR-21 widely used, to conduct their own research on the instrument. Although the marketing of the WAVR-21 is proprietary, the structure and the content are not, and the instrument must withstand the scrutiny of science to determine its future value.