Characteristics of assaultive behavior among psychiatric inpatients

Psychiatr Serv. 2003 Jul;54(7):1012-6. doi: 10.1176/


Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess the extent to which psychosis, disordered impulse control, and psychopathy contribute to assaults among psychiatric inpatients.

Methods: The authors used a semistructured interview to elicit reasons for assaults from assailants and their victims on an inpatient research ward. Video monitoring provided supplemental information to confirm participants' identities and activities before and during the assault.

Results: Consensus clinical ratings indicated that approximately 20 percent of the assaults in this sample were directly related to positive psychotic symptoms. Factor analysis revealed two psychosis-related factors, one related to positive psychotic symptoms and the other to psychotic confusion and disorganization, as well as a third factor that differentiated impulsive from psychopathic assaults.

Conclusions: Information obtained from interviews with assailants can reveal the underlying causes of specific assaults. This information is potentially useful in the selection of rational antiaggressive treatment strategies.

MeSH terms

  • Consensus
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / psychology
  • Inpatients / psychology*
  • Inpatients / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Psychotherapy / methods
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Videotape Recording
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*