The development of a psychometric scale for the assessment of emotional vulnerability in victims of crime
This thesis explores the psychological correlates of victim isation and, in particular, the assessment and treatment of psychological distress in victims of crime. The thesis begins with a systematic review of the effectiveness of interventions in reducing psychological symptoms in victims of crime. The focus of the thesis, thereafter, is on the development of a psychometric scale to assist criminal justice practitioners in the assessment of emotional vulnerability in victims of crime. An initial item pool was generated from victims' responses to an open-ended questionnaire. Exploratory factor analysis of the preliminary scale, which was administered to a large sample of victims of crime, uncovered two factors, which were labelled Emotional Vulnerability and Crime-Specific Anger. Both subscales demonstrated high internal consistency and test-retest reliability. The factor structure of the new scale, labelled the Victim Reactions Scale, was confirmed in a new sample of victims of crime using structural equation modelling techniques. The subscales were found to correlate meaningfully with conceptually similar constructs. The Emotional Vulnerability scale demonstrated strong correlations with measures of posttraumatic stress disorder and anxiety. Crime-Specific Anger was associated with measures of anger and in the subsample of male victims also demonstrated substantial correlations with measures of psychological distress. An experimental study showed that high scores on the Emotional Vulnerability scale were strongly related to an attentional bias towards crime-related threat words. Emotional Vulnerability also demonstrated associations with demographic and victimisation variables, which were consistent with the literature on victims of crime. In conclusion, this thesis presents evidence for the reliability and construct validity of a new victim-specific psychometric scale, which is thought to measure emotional vulnerability and anger in relation to a criminal victimisation experience. The Victim Reactions Scale, in particular the Emotional Vulnerability subscale, could potentially be used within the criminal justice system to identify victims of crime who are in need of more in depth psychological assessment and treatment.