“We have demonstrated that the validity of psychological tests is comparable to the validity of medical tests” –Meyer et al.
How accurate are psychological tests? Are they accurate enough to use in diagnosis? Sometimes psychological tests don’t seem as accurate because they don’t feel the same as a blood test or a brain scan. However, a thought-provoking study evaluated the accuracy of psychological tests in comparison to common medical tests.
Psychological Assessment Validity
A group of researchers, led by Gregory Meyer, gathered data from more than 125 pieces of research that looked at the accuracy of different psychological and medical tests. Each test was evaluated by the relationship between the test and the disease or disorder that test is trying to measure. For example, you could evaluate the relationship between a positive mammogram finding and actual instances of breast cancer. Although mammograms are intended to accurately find breast cancer every time, they don’t always succeed. The more often the mammogram is successful, the greater the tests accuracy.
Tests I Use IN My Psychological Assessments
I was interested to see the strength of some of the psychological tests I use in my practice and how they measured up to familiar medical tests. The MMPI is a common personality test that I often use to help with diagnosis of different psychological disorders like depression, anxiety, schizophrenia etc. This test was more accurate than a home pregnancy test.
Another common test that I use is the WAIS, which is an IQ test for adults. I often give this test to adults who are wondering if they have a learning disorder or perhaps as part of an adult ADHD assessment. It turns out that this test is about as accurate as a dental x-ray looking for cavities.
I sometimes use neuropsychological tests, which are good for screening for issues like dementia. It turns out that these tests were more accurate in identifying dementia than using an MRI.
Importance of Accurate Diagnosis
Psychological tests are important because it is often very challenging to provide an accurate diagnosis. It is difficult because many disorders have many of the same symptoms, it can be hard to be aware of all potential symptoms, and it can be hard to figure all of this out and explain it in a short medical appointment.
One of the reasons an accurate diagnosis is important is because the medical treatments for different psychological issues can be very different. For example, ADHD can often be confused with Bipolar. Unfortunately, if you give someone with bipolar an ADHD medication, they have have a negative reaction.
The importance of these psychological tests is reinforced for me every time I make an unexpected discovery. It is surprising how many individuals are surprised to discover that they have issues with anxiety. Others may have struggled with ADHD since they were young, never knowing the cause of school, work, and relationship issues. It is not just the patients who are surprised. Even after years of seeing different issues, psychological tests can show results that surprise me and make me grateful I am not relying solely on clinical interviews.
By Dr. Syras Derksen
Meyer, G., et al., (2001). Psychological testing and psychological assessment: A review of evidence and issues. American Psychologist, 128-165.
Exclusion, teasing, humiliation, taunting at the hands of peers. These are, sadly, common experiences for many students every day. Harassment at the hands of one’s classmates is observed across cultures, genders, and ages.
Among the first researchers to study peer victimization is Dr. Dan Olweus. He defined bullying as repeated exposure over time to negative actions on the part of one or more students. Dr. Olweus emphasizes that the actions are carried out repeatedly and over time, and also adds that there is an imbalance of power; that is, it is not easy for the student to defend himself or herself because the bully has some form of power over them. Power can come in different forms, such as physical advantage, social standing, or larger numbers.
Discovering that your child is a victim of peer harassment can be devastating. The heartbreak of sending her to school every day knowing she faces hostility and humiliation is overwhelming. It is a fundamental human right for a child to feel safe in school and not to be afraid of being harassed or degraded. As time goes on, parents wonder how far they should go to try and protect their child. How much should she be left to learn to solve these problems on her own or should you try a new school to get a fresh start?
Whether the thought comes as a knee-jerk reaction to hearing about bullying, or whether it feels like the last resort, many parents wonder if moving their child to another school will stop their victimization.
Unfortunately, while research reveals that a change in classrooms can often result in a change in social role, the role of the victim is the usually stable (Salmivalli, 2001). Whether it is insecurity and fear about new classmates, the difficulty of entering a new social group, or a child’s particular characteristics, changing schools is not likely to mean an end to bullying. As well, communities often overlap and adding in the world of social media may mean that a new classroom isn’t quite the fresh start you thought it would be.
Given this information, changing schools should be seen as a last effort and one that should be taken only when the situation is at the point where everything has been attempted and a drastic change is necessary. The following sections describe other ways to address bullying. Even if a child does change schools because of bullying, it is essential to continue to work to prevent future victimization.
School & Classroom Assessment
Most, if not all, schools will have a policy or initiative about anti-bullying. These prevention programs usually involve education of teachers on how to intervene, as well as classroom education for students to prevent or stop bullying among them. Unfortunately, sometimes teachers and school staff are unaware of bullying that takes place, so it is important to meet with them to let them know your concerns and to collaborate in how to improve your child’s school experience.
Individual Problem Solving
Eliminating bullying is the ideal, but the reality is that children and adolescents will still experience it and having coping and problem solving strategies will help to protect them. Work with your child to understand what their natural reactions are in situations and make a plan with concrete steps to help him be prepared if it happens again. An effective plan will have solutions that your child is comfortable doing, and has contingencies for possible actions (using an “if… then” frame). For example, “If [bully] calls me a bad name, then I will ignore her and move to another part of the playground”.
What makes an individual at risk for victimization is a complex question. Put simply, there are characteristics (physical and behavioural) that tend to attract harassment from peers. Some of these factors are: Physical weakness, internalizing problems (anxious, withdrawn, insecure), externalizing problems (attention-seeking, disruptive, argumentative), low self-concept. It is not fair that a student may attract bullies because of these attributes, but it may be a signal that your child is struggling in other areas such as social skills, behaviour regulation, or emotional distress.
While it may be difficult to read that the role of the victim is often stable despite classroom or school changes, Dr. Olweus’s research followed-up with a group of former school victims at age 23 and found that in many ways, their anxiety, assertiveness, and stress levels were the same as their non-victimized peers. Many victims are able to overcome their current troubles and thrive into adulthood.
Source: Juvonen, J., & Graham, S. (2001). Peer harassment in school: The plight of the vulnerable and victimized. New York: Guilford Press.
By Kristi Macdonald