Measurement of victimization in adolescence: Development and validation of the childhood experiences of violence questionnaire

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Child Abuse and Neglect: The International Journal, Volume 32, Issue 11, pp. 1037-1057

The perceived need for a reliable and valid instrument to assess exposure to multiple forms of maltreatment among youth led to the development of the Childhood Experiences of Violence Questionnaire (CEVQ). The CEVQ is an 18-item self-report measure of victimization in seven categories (peer-on-peer violence, witnessing domestic violence, emotional abuse, physical punishment, physical abuse, and sexual abuse). It also gathers information on perpetrators, severity, onset, duration, and disclosure of abuse.

The instrument was developed through extensive literature reviews, expert consultations, and individual interviews with youths drawn from various settings (child welfare, health clinics, secondary school). The initial draft questionnaire composed of 12 items was pilot tested with a second round of interviews and focus groups with mothers, youth, and child protection workers and test-retest reliability was estimated as good to excellent for all stem items, except for two. At this stage, the emotional abuse question was added. The final phase involved evaluation of the final 18-item CEVQ. Test-retest reliability was estimated from a sample of 179 participants and was found to be excellent, except for peer violence. Content validity was established by a panel of eleven child welfare workers. Construct validity was confirmed in a sample of 177 youth by significantly higher scores for self-reported emotional and behavioural psychopathology among youth reporting victimization. Fair to good agreement between clinicians’ independent judgements of physical abuse and sexual abuse and youths’ self-reports established criterion validity of the CEVQ.

These findings provide preliminary evidence that the CEVQ is a brief, reliable, valid, and informative instrument for assessing exposure to victimization and maltreatment among youth. The instrument requires further evaluation with larger samples before it can be used in clinical practice and presents some limitations such as the lack of items assessing neglect.

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