Violence risk assessment and women: predictive accuracy of the HCR-20 in a civil psychiatric sample

Behav Sci Law. Sep-Oct 2011;29(5):623-33. doi: 10.1002/bsl.1005. Epub 2011 Sep 7.


Research to date has not adequately demonstrated whether the HCR-20 Violence Risk Assessment Scheme (HCR-20; Webster, Douglas, Eaves, & Hart, 1997), a structured violence risk assessment measure with a robust literature supporting its validity in male samples, is a valid indicator of violence risk in women. This study utilized data from the MacArthur Study of Mental Disorder and Violence to retrospectively score an abbreviated version of HCR-20 in 827 civil psychiatric patients. HCR-20 scores and predictive accuracy of community violence were compared for men and women. Results suggested that the HCR-20 is slightly, but not significantly, better for evaluating future risk for violence in men than in women, although the magnitude of the gender differences was small and was largely limited to historical factors. The results do not indicate that the HCR-20 needs to be tailored for use in women or that it should not be used in women, but they do highlight that the HCR-20 should be used cautiously and with full awareness of its potential limitations in women.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Forensic Psychiatry*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Risk Factors
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data
  • Women