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Hostility During Admission Interview as a Short-Term Predictor of Aggression in Acute Psychiatric Male Inpatients

J Clin Psychiatry 2003;64(12):1460-1464

Background: A critical step for improving the prediction of on-ward violence is the identification of variables that are not only consistently associated with an increased risk of aggression but also easily evaluated during the admission interview. The goal of this prospective study was to assess the predictive utility of hostility during admission interview.

Method: The sample consisted of 80 newly admitted male patients with heterogeneous DSM-IV psychiatric diagnoses recruited from the psychiatric ward of an urban public hospital. Psychiatric symptoms at admission were assessed with the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale (BPRS). Aggressive behavior during the first week of hospitalization was measured with the Modified Overt Aggression Scale. Data were collected between January and June 1998.

Results: In a multiple regression model, BPRS items hostility and tension-excitement emerged as significant predictors of verbal aggression, whereas thinking disturbance (high) and suspiciousness-uncooperativeness (low) emerged as significant predictors of aggression against objects. In contrast, when aggression was treated as a binary dependent variable in a logistic model, hostility during the admission interview had no utility in predicting on-ward aggressive behavior.

Conclusion: This study confirms the importance of distinguishing between different types of aggression to improve the accuracy of predictions of violence. The findings suggest that the question whether hostility is a useful short-term predictor of aggression in psychiatric inpatients cannot be answered conclusively. The predictive utility of hostility was relatively high for predicting verbal aggression but was negligible for predicting other types of aggressive behavior.