A Review of a Review of the RADQ

by Jean Mercer, PhD
Professor of Psychology
Richard Stockton College
Pomona, New Jersey

In a recent edition of their online newsletter, The Association for Assessment in Counseling and Education recently published an evaluative review of the Randolph Attachment Disorder Questionnaire (RADQ). When the review came to the notice of ACT Professional Board chair Jean Mercer, she sent this open letter to the responsible official at AACE.

Editor, NewsNotes
The Association for Assessment in Counseling and Education
To the Editor:

I am writing to express concern over a recent publication on your web site, “Test Review: The Randolph Attachment Disorder Questionnaire,” by Carl. J. Sheperis and Carrie Pugh.

Despite the clearly cautionary tone of the authors, the article’s very existence tends to legitimize a belief system and practices that are questionable at best. Various omissions, perhaps due to lack of space, make the RADQ appear to be a new but possibly evidence-based instrument, which it is not.

I have discussed the RADQ in detail elsewhere (Mercer, 2002; Mercer, Sarner, & Rosa, 2003). Let me briefly note a few important points about the test and the test review. First, the evaluative statement that the RADQ is “widely used” is not congruent with the earlier statement that there are no peer-reviewed articles about the test. If it is true that the test is being widely used in this time of demands for empirical evidence in practice, surely the review authors should have noted that this is ill-advised. We are in serious trouble if tests are coming into wide use without any published evidence basis.

Sheperis and Pugh correctly point out that the immediate source of the RADQ was the checklist used at the former Attachment Center at Evergreen, but the history of the items goes back farther than that. There is considerable overlap between the RADQ items and a list put forward at one time as diagnostic of child sexual abuse, and with another presented decades ago as a way to detect symptoms of masturbation (Dawes, 1994; Underwager & Wakefield, 1990). These items are not based on empirical evidence.

The test review authors note that Randolph claimed predictive validity for the test based on differences in parental responses before and after treatment of children at the Evergreen clinic, but they do not point out the circularity of reasoning here. Without independent evidence about outcomes, beyond the correlations discussed by Sheperis and Pugh, pre- and post-intervention scores cannot in themselves provide evidence of predictive validity, nor can an unvalidated test provide evidence of the effectiveness of a treatment, especially when the design of the comparison is as poor as it is in this case (see Mercer, 2002).

Finally, there are two points that I believe have real significance for the issue of legitimization of the RADQ. First, there is the fact that the RADQ has from the beginning been associated with Attachment Therapy, a physically intrusive and potentially dangerous treatment that has been associated with some child deaths and has raised many concerns. Randolph’s predictive validity evidence is based on data from this type of treatment, characteristic of the Attachment Center at Evergreen in the past. Attachment Therapy’s proponents have presented inadequate evidence and garbled theory in attempts to sell their worldview, and I fear that they will be much encouraged by Sheperis and Pugh’s apparent acceptance of their work as legitimate.

Second, it should be noted that Elizabeth Randolph had her license revoked by the California Board of Psychology, 6 July 1996, and was ordered to desist from practicing without a license by the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing, 25 January 2002, as a brief search of the Internet will show. Although
falsus in uno does not necessarily imply falsus in toto, I would prefer to have research data in this important field be presented by persons of unquestionable integrity.

As you can see, the picture related to the RADQ is a sordid one. I fear that even the tempered review written by Sheperis and Pugh may imply to your readers a respectable background for this test, where indeed none exists. Although we all hesitate to suppress information without very good reasons, there are times when editors should make that choice, not because of the actual words of an article, but because of the implications that may be drawn by the casual reader.

Sincerely yours,
/s/ Jean Mercer, Ph.D.
President, New Jersey Association for Infant Mental Health
Professor of Psychology
Richard Stockton College
Pomona, NJ


Dawes, Robyn, House of Cards: Psychology and Psychotherapy Built Upon Myth. New York, NY: Free Press, 1994.
Mercer, Jean. (2002), “Attachment Therapy: A treatment without empirical support,”
Scientific Review of Mental Health Practice, 1(2), 9-16. onlinetext
Mercer, Jean; Sarner, Larry; & Rosa, Linda,
Attachment Therapy on Trial: The Torture and Death of Candace Newmaker, Westport, CT: Praeger 2003.
Underwager, Ralph; & Wakefield, Hollida. (1990).
The Real World of Child Interrogations. Springfield, IL: Thomas.