Violence Assessment/Prevention

We are all potentially violent; therefore, we all pose a risk to ourselves and others. The question is not could we be violent, because we all could. The question is HOW MUCH of a risk does one pose?

There are several potential causes of violent behavior. Those causes can be biological, sociological, or psychological.

Biologically, violence has been attributed to brain disease and tumors, testosterone, serotonin, and other organic causes. The evidence supports a biological contributor to aggression, but it is not by any means the only contributor.

Sociological causes are those things in the environment that contribute to aggression. They include corporate downsizing, domestic violence, availability of sophisticated weapons, violent TV/movies, and a culture that promotes a victim mentality. Again, no single thing causes violence, but these issues are related.

Psychological causes are those things within ourselves that contribute to aggression. Psychological contributors include violations of psychological contracts (such as being fired), emotional abuse (from spouses, coworkers, bosses, etc.), feelings of mistreatment, and mental illness (depression, borderline personality disorder, psychosis, delusion, paranoia).

The primary variable that distinguishes between those who act out violently and those who behave in socially acceptable ways deals with COPING skills. Aristotle said, "Anyone can become angry, that is easy…but to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way…this is not easy."

Monahan's Questions

In the assessment process, Dr. Moffatt also considers seven critical issues that he has derived from Dr. John Monahan's research on prediction of violent behavior.

  1. Context at time of concern.
2. Demographics of subject.
3. History of violence.
4. History of coping.
5. Stress.
6. Likely victim.
7. Means. 

You can learn more about the assessment process and about how to prevent becoming a victim of violent behavior through Dr. Moffatt's seminars. To schedule a seminar, refer to the contact info at top right. 

Dr. Moffatt has constructed a hierarchical list of 22 items that he uses to assess the risk for violent behavior. (These items are covered in detail in his book Blind-Sided: Homicide Where It Is Least Expected. If you would like to see reviews, a synopsis, and a table of contents for Dr. Moffatt's book, click on the link "Dr. Moffatt's Book" below. If you are interested in ordering this book you can order it from Greenwood Publishing or .)

-- history of aggressive behavior

-- subjective fear of person by others

-- threatening behaviors/statements of
intent to do harm

-- specific victim

-- social isolation

-- antisocial behavior

-- absence of support system

-- lack of or weak social skills

-- clear feeling of being wronged by target

-- severe situational stress

-- job instability

-- substance abuse

-- poor self-image

-- suicide attempts/ideation

-- fantasies of violence

-- presence of aggressive models

-- divorce/marital instability

-- loss of job

-- poverty

-- available weapon

-- male gender

-- age 23-45