Control: Patients' aggression in psychiatric settings

Anat Drach-Zahavy, Hadass Goldblatt, Michal Granot, Shmuel Hirschmann, Hava Kostintski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Psychiatric patient assaults on staff are a serious problem, affecting staff, patients, and organizations. To understand the etiology of aggressive events, researchers have documented characteristics of aggressive patients, their victims, and to a lesser degree, the patient-provider interaction. Missing in the literature is how staff's different perceptions of aggressive incidents might impact their reactions. In this study, we conducted in-depth, semistructured interviews with 11 health care professionals working in a psychiatric ward in one Israeli psychiatric hospital. Through content analysis, we revealed two main themes: patients' and providers' controllability over patients' aggression. From the intersection of these two themes, four prototypes of the aggressive encounter emerged: the power struggle, the therapeutic encounter, inverse power relations, and victim-to-victim encounters, each distinctively characterized by different emotional, cognitive, and behavioral responses. We discuss our findings in light of attribution theory, which carries important theoretical and practical implications for handling aggression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-53
Number of pages11
JournalQualitative Health Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • health care professionals
  • psychiatry
  • risk, perceptions
  • violence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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