Psychiatric Quarterly

, Volume 76, Issue 2, pp 123–137 | Cite as

Social Isolation, Impulsivity and Depression as Predictors of Aggression in a Psychiatric Inpatient Population

  • Christopher J. Ferguson
  • Patricia M. Averill
  • Howard Rhoades
  • Donna Rocha
  • Nelson P. Gruber
  • Pushpa Gummattira


Aggressive behavior among psychiatric inpatients remains an issue of concern for staff, families and patients themselves. At the present time, studies examining prediction of aggression among psychiatric inpatients have focused mainly on diagnostic or demographic risk factors. Unfortunately little is known about specific social functioning and personality risk factors that may help identify specific individuals at risk for aggressive behavior. Given that many individuals who have engaged in violent criminal behavior have been observed to experience a combination of social isolation, depression and impulsiveness, it is possible that this same combination of traits may function as a predictor of aggression among psychiatric inpatients. The current study examines whether psychiatric inpatients with a combination of social isolation, depression and impulsivity are significantly more likely to become aggressive than other psychiatric inpatients without that combination of factors. Results indicated that impulsivity functioned as a positive predictor of aggression, whereas depression acted as a protective factor. Perceived social support did not appear to relate strongly to aggression. Further, physicians’ ratings of hostility were more predictive of aggressive incidents than were self-reports of hostility. Clinical implications of these findings are discussed.

aggression psychiatric inpatient impulsivity depression 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christopher J. Ferguson
    • 1
    • 4
  • Patricia M. Averill
    • 2
  • Howard Rhoades
    • 2
  • Donna Rocha
    • 3
  • Nelson P. Gruber
    • 3
  • Pushpa Gummattira
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Wisconsin – WhitewaterWhitewater
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesUniversity of Texas – Houston Medical School, Harris County Psychiatric CenterHouston
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Harris County Psychiatric CenterUniversity of Texas – Houston Medical SchoolHouston
  4. 4.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Wisconsin – WhitewaterWhitewater

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