Categorization of aggressive acts committed by chronically assaultive state hospital patients

Cameron David Quanbeck, Barbara E McDermott, Jason Lam, Howard Eisenstark, Gregory Sokolov, Charles L Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Objective: This study examined factors motivating inpatient aggression in a sample of chronically assaultive state hospital patients. Methods: Inpatients who had committed three or more assaults over a one-year period were identified by using an incident report database. Aggressive episodes were categorized as impulsive, organized, or psychotic by using a procedure for classifying assaultive acts based on record review. Each assault type was further subcategorized. The relationship between assault type, victim (staff or patient), and legal status of the assaulter was also assessed. Results: A total of 839 assaults committed by 88 chronically aggressive patients were reviewed. Although most patients had a primary psychotic disorder, the most common type of assault was impulsive (54%), rather than psychotic or organized. Staff were most often victimized by impulsive assaults in situations involving attempts to change a patient's unwanted behavior and refusal of a patient request. Organized and psychotic assaults occurred less frequently (29% and 17%, respectively) and were more likely to target other patients. Organized assaults were most often motivated by a desire to seek revenge. Psychotic assaults were most often committed by an assailant acting under the influence of paranoid ideations. Civilly committed patients were overrepresented in the sample. Criminally committed patients committed more acts of organized aggression, although this finding did not reach significance. Conclusions. These findings indicate that assaultive behavior among state hospital inpatients is complex and heterogeneous. Because each type of assault requires a different management approach, characterizing aggressive behavior may be important in determining which institutional programs and treatment-plan interventions to implement when addressing inpatient aggression.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)521-528
Number of pages8
JournalPsychiatric Services
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health(social science)
  • Health Professions(all)


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