Receiver-Operating Characteristics Analysis: An Application to Assessment and Diagnosis of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders

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Everyday life is filled with decision-making, from the clothes we put on in the morning to what we plan to cook for dinner. For a majority of individuals, the outcomes associated with these types of day-to-day decision-making typically do not result in severe consequences. Now consider the type of decisions faced by a psychologist regarding their professional responsibilities of beneficence to the community and individuals they serve. For conceptual purposes, let us discuss a case presentation. A 7-year-old child is brought into a psychologists’ office that presents with the following symptoms: frequent acts of stealing and lying; destruction of property; harm towards others; and disregard for societal rules. What does the psychologist decide? Should they send the child on their merry way or decide to initiate a clinical assessment to identify the likelihood that the child has a specific behavioral disorder? Due to the severity of symptom presentation any qualified psychologist would go forward with a thorough assessment and request for the parents to complete a list of behavioral and emotional rating scales. Results of the clinical assessment conclude a diagnosis of conduct disorder. Given the developmental trajectory of conduct disorder, early intensive intervention is the key to preventing the onset of additional psychopathology such as substance abuse or antisocial personality disorder (Dodge, & Pettit, 2003). Given the high-stake outcomes associated with this type of a clinical decision, it is absolutely imperative for the diagnosis to be based on assessments that have evidence of acceptable psychometric properties, but also can accurately discriminate between children with and without an conduct disorder. If th... ... middle of paper ... ...d diagnoses (Krzanowski & Hand, 2009). Since the inception of ROC analysis, a wide range of fields have begun to apply the concepts to improve decision-making processes such as sociology, radiology, cardiology, clinical chemistry, epidemiology experimental psychology, atmospheric sciences, finance, and machine learning (Krzanowski & Hand, 2009). To demonstrate the growth of ROC in research, Krzanowski and Hand (2009) conducted a systematic literature search that revealed the number of articles published using ROC analysis from 1992 to 2007 grew from 854 to 4463, respectively. Regardless of the field application, ROC analysis is conceptually the same (with slightly different terminology across fields of study to confuse graduate students) and there are several concepts important to understand prior to running a ROC analysis and using the procedures correctly.

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