A prospective design was used to investigate the relationship of current psychiatric symptoms of incarcerated people with serious mental illness (SMI) and aggressive behavior on a penitentiary ward for crisis intervention.
One hundred sixty detainees with SMI, detained in a high-security penitentiary psychiatric facility, were screened every 2 weeks with the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale-Extended (BPRS-E) by trained clinicians, to ensure that the data on psychiatric symptoms were up-to-date. Aggressive behavior was registered with the Staff Observation Aggression Scale–Revised. A binary logistic regression analysis was performed to examine the relationships between factor scores of the BPRS-E and aggressive behavior.
Significant relationships between the BPRS-E factor hostility, antisocial traits, and aggressive incidents were found, but not between the positive symptoms or manic factor scores and aggressive incidents.
Symptoms of SMI measured with the BPRS-E did not help to explain the occurrence of aggressive behavior. This is not in line with what is commonly found. The implication is that it can be expected that this population will display aggressive behavior but that symptoms do not help in predicting when this will occur. In addition, hostility and antisocial traits were related to aggressive behavior. For this specific population, an interactional approach might be more effective in the management of aggression than treatment of symptoms of SMI.