What's the point? Towards a methodology for assessing the function of psychiatric inpatient aggression

Michael David Daffern, Kevin Howells, James Robert Ogloff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

99 Citations (Scopus)


There are few examples in the literature of the application of functional analysis to psychiatric inpatient aggression. Structural assessment approaches have dominated. This paper introduces a system for classifying the functions of aggression in psychiatric inpatients that was applied to 502 aggressive behaviours exhibited by patients in a secure forensic psychiatric hospital. At least one function was identified for the majority of aggressive incidents; the most common functions pertaining to patients responses to the restrictions and demands of the inpatient setting, to express anger or to punish others perceived as provocative, and to maintain status. There was little evidence suggesting that aggression was used to obtain tangible rewards, to reduce social isolation, or to simply observe the suffering of others. Differences in the function of aggressive behaviour were found across victim types. Results of this study have implications for the prediction and prevention of inpatient aggression and for the treatment of aggressive inpatients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101 - 111
Number of pages11
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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