Scale Description

A 3-page SAQ-Adult Probation III report is available by clicking on this Example Report link. It is provided as a ready reference to augment this dialogue. There are several levels of interpretation ranging from viewing the SAQ-Adult Probation III as a self-report to interpreting scale elevations and scale inter-relationships. The following table is a starting point for interpreting SAQ-Adult Probation III scale scores.

Scale Ranges

Risk Catagory

Risk Range Percentile

Total Percentage

Low Risk

0 - 39%


Medium Risk

40 - 69%


Problem Risk

70 - 89%


Severe Problem

90 - 100%


A problem is not identified until a scale score is at the 70th percentile or higher. Elevated scale scores refer to percentile scores that are at or above the 70th percentile. Severe problems are identified by scale scores at or above the 90th percentile. The SAQ- Adult Probation III has been administered to over 189,000 probationers and this database continues to expand daily.

Scale Descriptions

1. Truthfulness Scale: measures how truthful the probationer was while completing the SAQ-Adult Probation III. This scale identifies guarded and defensive probationers that attempt to fake good. Probationer denial and problem minimization are associated with increased probability of recidivism (Kropp, Hart, Webster & Eaves, 1995; Grann & Wedin, 2002). Reluctance or refusal to take responsibility for one's behavior can indicate a lack of motivation or low inclination to change (Scott & Wolfe, 2003). Truthfulness Scale scores in the 70 to 89th percentile reflect some denial and problem minimization but when applied to scale scores they are truth-corrected. The truth-correction procedure is similar to the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) truth-correction procedure. The MMPI is the most widely-used test in the United States and possibly the world. In brief, the MMPI L, F and K-Scale correction is similar to the SAQ-Adult Probation III truth-corrected percentile scores.

Truthfulness Scale scores at or above the 90th percentile mean that all SAQ-Adult Probation III scale scores are inaccurate (invalid) because the probationer (respondent) was overly guarded, minimized problems or was attempting to fake answers. Probationers that are very emotionally disturbed at the time they are tested or have severe reading impairments could also attain an elevated (70th percentile or higher) score. If the probationer can read the newspaper they can read the SAQ-Adult Probation III. If not consciously deceptive, probationers with elevated (70th percentile or higher) Truthfulness Scale scores are uncooperative – often in a passive-aggressive manner. They need to appear in a good light.

The Truthfulness Scale is important because it shows whether-or-not the probationer answered test items honestly. Truthfulness Scale scores at or below the 89th percentile indicate that all other scale scores are accurate. One of the first things to check when reviewing an SAQ-Adult Probation III report is the Truthfulness Scale score.

2. Violence (Lethality) Scale: Identifies probationers that are dangerous to themselves and others. Violence is defined as the expression of rage and hostility through physical force. A recent study found that the strongest predictor of violent recidivism while on probation was if the probationer was a generally violent aggressor (Stalans, Yarnold, Seng, Olson & Repp, 2004). Violence is aggression in its most extreme and unacceptable form. Elevated scorers can be demanding, sensitive to perceived criticism and are insightless about how they express their anger/hostility. Severe problem scorers should not be ignored as they are threatening and very dangerous.

A particularly unstable and perilous situation involves an elevated Violence Scale score with an elevated Antisocial, Alcohol or Drugs Scale score. Substance (alcohol or other drugs) abuse and antisocial attitudes can contribute to a person's dangerousness. Some of the same neurochemical anomalies that increase an individual's violence risk also increase the risk of substance disorder development (Brady, 2000). The more of these scales that are elevated with an elevated Violence Scale, the worse the prognosis. An elevated Stress Coping Abilities Scale with an elevated Violence Scale provides insight regarding co-determinants and possible treatment recommendations. A severe problem Violence Scale score is a malignant sign with or without other scale elevations and describes a dangerous person. An elevated Violence Scale with an elevated Aggressiveness Scale score increases the probability of acting out. The Violence Scale score can be interpreted independently or in combination with other SAQ-Adult Probation III scales. There is much evidence supporting the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in treating violent offenders and reducing recidivism (Lipsey, Chapman & Landenberger, 2001).

3. Antisocial Scale: Measures anti-social attitudes and behavior. Recent studies show that antisocial behavior can develop from environmental as well as genetic factors (Lee, 1999). The DSM-IV notes that conduct disorder onset associated with Antisocial Personality Disorder onset begins before the age of 15 (American Psychological Association, 2000). Antisocial behavior refers to aggressive, impulsive and sometime violent actions that flout social and ethical codes as well as laws. This behavior pattern often begins with a conduct disorder involving lying, stealing, fighting, cruelty, truancy, vandalism and substance abuse. Elevated Antisocial Scale scores are often associated with non-internalization of recognized conventions. Many high antisocial Scale scorers manifest a seeming inability to profit from experience.

An elevated Antisocial Scale in conjunction with an elevated Alcohol Scale, Drugs Scale or Violence Scale score would be a malignant sign. A severe problem Stress Coping Abilities scale score with an elevated severe problem Antisocial Scale suggest the possibility of a suspicious/paranoid mental health problem. And an elevated Antisocial Scale score suggests a rather negative flavor to acting out behaviors. The Antisocial Scale can be interpreted independently or in combination with other SAQ-Adult Probation III scales.

4. Aggressiveness Scale: Measures aggressive behavior. Aggressiveness is defined as a social dominance with a tendency toward hostility. This condition is often characterized by a lack of social concern for others. Aggressive conduct disorders are characterized by persistent, domineering, punitive and even assaultive verbal or physical conduct. Research associates personality disorders, like antisocial personality disorder, to increased rates of crime and, more specifically, to increased prevalence of aggressive and violent crime (Johnson et al., 2000; Rasmussen et al., 1999).

An aggressive person who is also antisocial and/or manifest an elevated Violence Scale score can be particularly dangerous. Substance (alcohol and other drugs) abuse tends to magnify a person's aggressive problem tendencies. A person with a severe problem Aggressiveness Scale score becomes more bothersome or distracting with a concurrently elevated Alcohol, Drugs, Antisocial Scale or Stress Coping Abilities Scale score. The Aggressiveness Scale can be interpreted independently or in combination with other SAQ-Adult Probation III scales. Aggression Replacement Therapy, also known as Aggression Replacement Training is a type of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that has been successfully used to reduce recidivism (Barnoski, 2002; Glodstein & Glick, 1994; Curulla, 1991).

An elevated Aggressiveness Scale score is indicative of increased risk-taking behavior, acting out potential and impulsiveness. Severe problem scorers represent the extreme and can constitute a subgroup of antisocial personality disorders. Characteristics include lack of social concern, disrespect of others' property and deliberate annoying of others. Severe problem scorers often cross the line between aggressive behavior and inappropriate acting out. Aggressive tendencies are particularly troublesome in people also scoring in the elevated Violence Scale, Alcohol Scale and/or Drugs Scale range.

5. Alcohol Scale: Measures alcohol use and the severity of abuse. Alcohol refers to beer, wine and other liquor. It is a licit substance. SAMSHA's Office of Applied Studies recently reported that the rate of substance abuse among probationers is significantly higher than the general population, even after taking demographic differences into account. Heavy alcohol use was two and a half times more likely in probationers than in non-probationers (SAMHSA, 2008). The link between alcohol and violent crime is established in the literature. In a nationwide study, a significant percentage of victims in violent offenses reported that alcohol had been a factor (Greenfeld, 1998). An elevated (70 to 89th percentile) Alcohol Scale score is indicative of an emerging drinking problem. An Alcohol Scale score in the severe problem (90 to 100th percentile) range identifies serious drinking problems.

Since a history of alcohol problems could result in an abstainer (current non-drinker) attaining a low to medium-risk score, precautions have been built into the SAQ-Adult Probation III to correctly identify "recovering alcoholics." The probationers answer to the "recovering" question (item #149) is printed on the last page of the report for easy reference. In addition, elevated Alcohol Scale paragraphs caution staff to establish if the probationer is a recovering alcoholic.

Other Alcohol Scale items are printed as "significant items" when they are admitted to. For example: #18 (Admits has a drinking problem); #28 (In last year drinking was a problem); #44 (Admits has an alcohol problem); and #71 (Admits drinking is a serious problem). Severely elevated Alcohol and Drugs Scale scores indicate polysubstance abuse and the highest score usually identifies the probationer's substance of choice.

Scores in the severe problem (90 to 100th percentile) range are a malignant sign. And Alcohol Scale scores in the severe problem range often magnify the behaviors associated with other elevated scale scores when the probationer has been drinking. Substance abuse treatment has been associated with decreased criminal recidivism (Broome, Knight, Hiller & Simpson, 1996). The Alcohol Scale score can be interpreted independently or in combination with other SAQ-Adult Probation III scales.

6. Drug Scale: Measures drug use and the severity of abuse. Drugs refer to marijuana, ice, crack, cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamines, barbiturates, heroin, etc. Significant percentages of probationers and parolees have been shown to test positive for illicit drugs (Isaac, Heatley & Savoie, 1990). A recent Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) study found that 20 percent of probationers in the sample had been placed on probation for drug-related offenses and that 32 percent of probationers reported using illicit substances 30 days prior to their last arrest (BJS, 1998). An elevated (70 to 89th percentile) Drugs Scale score identifies emerging drug problems. A Drugs Scale score in the severe problem (90 to 100th percentile) range identifies established drug problems.

A history of drug-related problems (e.g., drug-related arrests, drug treatment, etc.) could result in an abstainer (current non-user) attaining a low to medium risk Drugs Scale score. For this reason precautions have been built into the SAQ-Adult Probation III to insure correct identification of "recovering" drug abusers. Many of these precautions are similar to those discussed in the previous Alcohol Scale description. The probationer's answer to the "recovering" question (item #149) is printed on the last page of the report for easy reference. In addition, elevated Drugs Scale paragraphs caution staff to establish if the probationer is a recovering drug abuser.

Other Drugs Scale items are printed as "significant items" when they are admitted to. For example: #47 (States still uses drugs); #63 (In last year had a drug problem); #90 (Admits to a drug problem); #101 (States is in drug treatment) and #104 (Admits is dependent on drugs). Concurrently elevated Drugs and Alcohol Scale scores are indicative of polysubstance abuse, and the highest score usually reflects the probationer's substance of choice.

A severe Drugs Scale score usually exacerbates or magnifies the effects associated with other elevated scores when the probationer uses drugs. A particularly dangerous situation exists when the Violence Scale score and the Drugs Scale score are in the severe problem range. Elevated Drugs Scale scores contribute to further impair Stress Coping Abilities Scale scorers' stress management abilities. A severe problem Drugs Scale score is an even more problematic sign when any Aggressiveness, Violence or Antisocial Scales are also on the severe problem range. The Drugs Scale can be interpreted independently or in combination with other SAQ-Adult Probation III scales.

7. Stress Coping Abilities Scale: Measures one's ability to cope effectively with or properly manage tension, stress and pressure. It is now accepted that stress exacerbates symptoms of physical, mental and emotional problems. Thus, an elevated Stress Coping Abilities Scale score in conjunction with other elevated SAQ-Adult Probation III scales helps explain the probationer's situation. When a probationer doesn't handle stress well, other existing problems are often exacerbated. Such problem augmentation or magnification applies to substance (alcohol and other drugs) abuse, behavioral acting out and attitudinal problems. A recent study found that probationers experience high rates of stress and emotional symptoms (Hagedorn & Willenbring, 2003).

When a Stress Coping Abilities Scale score is in the problem (70 to 89th percentile) range the probationer would benefit from a stress management program wherein effective stress coping strategies are taught. When a Stress Coping Abilities Scale score is in the severe problem (90 to 100th percentile) range it is very likely that the probationer has a diagnosable mental health problem. In these instances referral to a certified/licensed mental health professional might be warranted for a diagnosis and treatment plan. Among several affective psychotherapies, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is effective and popular for extreme stress (Gardner, Rose, Mason, Tyler, Cushway, 2005). As noted earlier, lower elevated scores suggest possible referral alternatives like stress management counseling. The Stress Coping Abilities Scale can be interpreted independently or in conjunction with other SAQ-Adult Probation III scale scores.

In conclusion, it was noted that there are several "levels" of SAQ-Adult Probation III interpretation ranging from viewing the SAQ-Adult Probation III as a self-report to interpreting scale elevations and inter-relationships. Staff can then put SAQ-Adult Probation III test report findings within the context of the probationer's life and corrections situation.

For even more insight into how the SAQ-Adult Probation III works, users are encouraged to review the SAQ-Adult Probation III Training Manual. Each scale's scoring methodology is explained, unique assessment features are discussed, and more detailed information on the SAQ-Adult Probation III system is presented.

Both the SAQ-Adult Probation III and the SAQ Adult Probation SHORT FORM are discussed in the Orientation and Training Manual. This manual is a must read for thorough understanding of the SAQ-Adult Probation III and the SAQ Adult Probation SHORT FORM. Both of these tests are also presented in detail on Risk & Needs website

There is now a Probation Referral Outcome (PRO) assessment instrument or test that assesses and measures treatment effectiveness or treatment outcome. The same test is administered twice: once before treatment (pretest) and again upon treatment completion (posttest). The pretest serves as a baseline for posttest comparison. For more information, click on this Probation Referral Outcome (PRO) link.


American Psychiatric Association. (2000) Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders : Fourth Edition Text Revision (DSM-IV-TR). Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association, pages 645-650.

Barnoski, R. (2002). Washington State's implementation of aggression replacement training for juvenile offenders: Preliminary findings. Olympia, WA: The Evergreen State College, Washington State Institute for Public Policy.

Brady, K. (2000). Violent behavior and substance use disorders. Program and abstracts from the 153rd Annual American Psychiatric Association Meeting, May 13-18, 2000; Chicago, Illinois. Abstract 26D.

Broome, K., Knight, K., Hiller, M. Simpson, D. (1996). Drug treatment process indicators for probationers and prediction of recidivism. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, Vol. 13 (6), 487-491.

Bureau of Justice Statistics (1998). Substance Abuse and Treatment of Adults on Probation, 1995, NCJ-166611.

Curulla, V. L. (1991). Aggression replacement training in the community for adult learning disabled offenders (Doctoral dissertation, University of Washington, 1991). Dissertation Abstracts International, 53(02-A), 627. (University Microfilms No. AAD92-16113).

Gardner, B., Rose, J., Mason, O., Tyler, P., Cushway, D. (2005). Cognitive therapy and behavioural coping in the management of work-related stress: An intervention study. Work & Stress, Vol 19(2), Apr-Jun 2005, 137-152.

Goldstein, A. P., & Glick, B. (1994). The prosocial gang: Implementing Aggression Replacement Training. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Grann, M. & Wedin, I. (2002). Risk factors for recidivism among spousal assault and spousal homicide offenders. Psychology, Crime, and Law, 8, 5-23.

Greenfeld, L. (1998). Alcohol and Crime: An Analysis of National Data on the Prevalence of Alcohol Involvement in Crime. Retrieved from

Hagedorn, H., Willenbring, M. (2003). Psychiatric illness among drug court probationers. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse; 29 (4):775-88.

Isaac, P., Heatley, M., Savoie, J. (1990)."Rates of Drug Detection in Urine Samples from Various Populations." Clinics in Laboratory Medicine, Vol. 10, No. 2, June 1990.

Johnson, J., Cohen, P., Smailes, E., Kasen, S., Oldham, J., Skodol, A., et al. (2000). Adolescent personality disorders associated with violence and criminal behavior during adolescence and early adulthood. American Journal of Psychiatry, 157(9), 1406-1412.

Kropp, P.R., Hart, S.D., Webster, C.D., & Eaves, D. (1995). Manual for the Spousal Assault Risk Assessment Guide (2nd ed.). Vancouver, Canada: B.C. Institute on Family Violence.

Lipsey, M., Chapman, G., Landenberger, N. (2001). Cognitive Behavioral Programs for Offenders. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 578:144-157.

Lee, J. (1999). The Treatment of Psychopathic and Antisocial Personality Disorders: A Review. Clinical Decision Making Support Unit, Broadmoor. Retrieved from

Office of Applied Studies, SAMHSA (2008). Substance Use Among Adults on Probation. Retrieved

Stalans, L, Yarnold, P., Seng, M., Olson, D. & Repp, M. (2004). Identifying Three Types of Violent Offenders and Predicting Violent Recidivism while on Probation: A Classification Tree Analysis. Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 28, No. 3 (Jun. 2004), pp. 253-271.