Juvenile Disposition Assessment (JDA)

The Juvenile Disposition Assessment (JDA) is designed specifically for juvenile disposition assessment. The Juvenile Disposition Assessment has 159 items and takes 35 minutes to complete. The Juvenile Disposition Assessment has nine measures (scales): 1. Truthfulness Scale, 2. Suicide Scale, 3. Resistance Scale, 4. Self-Esteem Scale, 5. Violence (Lethality) Scale, 6. Alcohol Scale, 7. Drugs Scale, 8. Distress Scale and 9. Stress Coping Abilities Scale.


  • Juvenile court evaluations
  • Juvenile pre-disposition evaluations
  • Probation departments and community corrections
  • Certified/licensed mental health providers
  • Juvenile drug courts

Nine Scales (Measures)

The Nine Juvenile Disposition Assessments (JDA) scales are described below:

    1. Truthfulness Scale: Measures how truthful the juvenile was while completing the test. This scale identifies denial, guardedness, problem minimization and attempts to "fake good."
    2. Suicide Scale: Identifies suicide prone individuals. Some youths are emotionally overwhelmed, desperate and dangerous to themselves.
    3. Resistance Scale: Measures defensiveness, uncooperativeness and resistance. Some youths resist help, whereas others accept it.
    4. Self-Esteem Scale: Reflects a person's explicit valuing and appraisal of self. It incorporates an attitude of acceptance-approval versus rejection-disapproval.
    5. Violence (Lethality) Scale: Measures the use of force to injure, damage or destroy. This scale measures the youth's danger to self and others. Adolescent violence concerns contributed to the inclusion of this scale.
    6. Alcohol Scale: Measures alcohol (beer, wine and liquor) use and abuse. This scale measures the severity of alcohol abuse while identifying alcohol-related problems.
    7. Drugs Scale: Measures the severity of illicit drug (marijuana, crack, cocaine, amphetamines, barbiturates, heroin, etc.) use and abuse while identifying drug-related problems.
    8. Distress Scale: Measures experienced pain, worry, sorrow and grief. Distress can involve both mental and physical strain. Distress is a common reason why youths seek counseling.
    9. Stress Coping Abilities Scale: Measures how well the youth handles stress, tension and pressure. Stress exacerbates symptoms of emotional and mental health problems.

The Juvenile Disposition Assessment (JDA) assesses attitudes and behaviors important to juvenile adjustment profiles. The JDA is much more than just another alcohol or drug test: It measures many important behaviors missed by other tests.

Why use the JDA?

Juvenile crime rates have risen across the U.S. These statistics underscore the abhorrent affects of substance (alcohol and other drugs) abuse and juvenile violence. Early detection of juvenile problems facilitates prompt and appropriate decision making. This type of information helps in deciding upon treatment, probation and incarceration alternatives. It also helps in deciding upon levels of supervision and incarceration alternatives.

At one sitting of approximately 35 minutes duration, the authorities can acquire a vast amount of perpetrator information that includes attitudinal, behavioral and juvenile problems. Early problem identification facilitates timely intervention and improved outcome.

Advantages of Screening

Screening or assessment instruments filter out individuals with serious problems that may require referral for more comprehensive evaluations and/or treatment. This filtering system works as follows:

Risk Category

Risk Range Percentile

Total Percentage

Low Risk

0 - 39%


Medium Risk

40 - 69%


Problem Risk

70 - 89%


Severe Problem

90 - 100%


Reference to the above table shows that a problem is not identified until a scale score is at the 70th percentile or higher. These risk range percentiles are based upon juveniles that have been tested with the JDA. This procedure is fair and avoids both extremes, specifically over-identification and under-identification of problems and risk.

A court, prosecutor, defense attorney or probation officer might refer juveniles with identified problems for further evaluation, intervention, treatment or even incarceration. In these cases, 11% of the juveniles screened (severe problem) would be referred. Or, policy might refer juveniles with identified (problem risk and severe problem) problems or thirty-one percent (31%) of the juveniles screened for further evaluation, treatment or even incarceration. In these examples, 89% or 69% (contingent upon adopted policy) of the juveniles screened would not be referred for additional (and expensive) alternatives.

Potential for budgetary savings (dollars) is large, with no compromises in appropriate evaluation, treatment or levels of supervision services for juveniles. Consequently, more juveniles could receive help. Without a screening program, there is usually more risk of over- or under-utilization of additional specialized services.

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