Staff members’ evaluation of inpatients’ motivation for aggression – the roles of staff restrictions and aggression severity

Mari Winje, Sarah van Mastrigt, Rolf Gjestad, Ragnar Urheim, Knut Rypdal

Vitenskapelig artikkel
Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 2018
Online / DOI:
Improved understanding of inpatient aggression can come from systematic assessment of motivation for aggressive incidents. This study investigates staff members’ evaluation of motivation for aggressive incidents, and how such evaluations are influenced by staff restrictions and aggression severity. Staff reports of aggressive incidents in a secure psychiatric unit were collected in clinical practice over a ten-year period (2006–2015). Motivation for aggression was assessed with the Aggressive Incident Motivation Evaluation Scale, measuring irritable, instrumental, and defensive dimensions. Information about staff restrictions was collected with the Staff Observation Aggression Scale – Revised, and severity was rated with the Visual Analog Scale. Multilevel analyses of 2649 aggressive incidents, committed by 67 inpatients, revealed greater variation in aggression motivation across incidents than between individual patients. Staff restrictions preceding the aggressive incident and rating of severity were positively related to staffs’ evaluation of motivation for aggression, but their impacts differed across motivational dimensions. Staff reports of motivation provide important additional information beyond current standard report forms. Systematically evaluating motivation is essential to risk management, and may contribute to develop more fine-tuned interventions for preventing and managing aggression in inpatient settings.