JOURNAL ARTICLE

Violent offending in schizophrenia spectrum disorders preceding and following diagnosis

Henning Hachtel, Cieran Harries, Stefan Luebbers, James Rp Ogloff
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 2018, 52 (8): 782-792
29543067

OBJECTIVE: People affected by schizophrenia spectrum disorders are at a higher risk of offending violently. This study aims to investigate risk factors in relation to the peri-diagnostic period and possible predictors of post-diagnostic violence of people diagnosed for the first time in the public mental health system.

METHODS: The study compared various risk factors for post-diagnostic violence in patients ( n = 1453) diagnosed with a schizophrenia spectrum disorder. Patients were grouped according to the occurrence of peri-diagnostic violence. Of the 246 violent offenders, 164 committed their first offence pre-diagnosis. Mental health and criminological variables were evaluated across the lifespan (median age at end of follow-up = 34.22 years, range = 17.02-55.80 years).

RESULTS: Gender, employment, non-violent offending, family incidents, violent and non-violent victimisation, substance use, personality disorder, number of in-patient admissions and history of non-compliance differed significantly across violent and non-violent subgroups (all p ⩽ 0.01 and at least small effect size). More frequent and longer inpatient admissions were found in the violent subgroups (all p ⩽ 0.01). For the whole sample, sex, number of violent offences, non-violent offences, violent victimisation, substance use and number of inpatient admissions predicted post-diagnostic violence (χ2 (6) = 188.13, p < 0.001). Among patients with a history of pre-diagnostic violence, a history of non-violent offending in the 18-month period pre-diagnosis was the strongest predictor of future violence (odds ratio = 3.08, 95% confidence interval [1.32, 7.21]).

CONCLUSION: At triage, violence risk assessment should consider the presence of antisocial behaviour and violent victimisation, substance use, male gender and frequency of inpatient admissions. Common treatment targets for the prevention of post-diagnostic violence include criminality and victimisation. Treatment of positive symptoms should be of greater emphasis for individuals without a history of pre-diagnostic violence.

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