Aggression in an Australian forensic psychiatric hospital

Michael Daffern (Thomas Embling Hospital, University Of South Australia, Melbourne)
James Ogloff (Thomas Embling Hospital, Monash University, Melbourne)
Kevin Howells (University Of South Australia, Adelaide)

The British Journal of Forensic Practice

ISSN: 1463-6646

Publication date: 1 November 2003


There is a considerable body of research on the assessment and prediction of aggression in psychiatric hospitals. A range of clinical and demographic characteristics associated with aggressive inpatients, such as young age and active symptoms of psychosis, have repeatedly been shown to contribute to aggression. Environmental factors have also been shown to be important. The study examined aggressive behaviours in an Australian forensic psychiatric hospital, using aggression‐specific recording instrumentation developed for the study. The purpose of the study was to compare results using aggression specific‐recording instrumentation with a previous study using retrospective methods relying on standard hospital incident forms, and to examine the relationship between type, direction and severity of aggression with the use of seclusion.In contrast with the results obtained in a previous study, staff rather than patients were more often the victims of both verbal and physical aggression, although patients were more frequently the victims of more severe forms of aggression. Patients were verbally and physically aggressive towards other patients at similar rates, although they were more frequently verbally, rather than physically, aggressive to staff. Acute wards recorded more aggression than rehabilitation wards. Males and females were aggressive at similar rates. A reduction in reported incidents of verbal and physical aggression, particularly against staff, occurred over the course of the study. Patients were secluded and incident forms were completed following approximately 30% of aggressive behaviours. Whether or not a patient was secluded and whether or not an incident form was completed depended on a range of factors, including the nature of the victim and the type and severity of the aggression.


Daffern, M., Ogloff, J. and Howells, K. (2003), "Aggression in an Australian forensic psychiatric hospital", The British Journal of Forensic Practice, Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 18-28.

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Copyright © 2003, MCB UP Limited

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