Illuminating the relationship between personality disorder and violence: Contributions of the general aggression model
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Although a consensus exists among mental health professionals that certain personality disorders are associated with an increased propensity for violence, uncertainties regarding the nature and extent of this relationship persist. Previous approaches to studying the personality disorder-violence relationship are also hampered by an array of methodological issues. This paper presents a novel approach to enhanced understanding of the personality disorder-violence relationship, by integrating contemporary psychological aggression theory with the extant personality disorder-violence literature. A theoretical conceptualization based on the most comprehensive and contemporary psychological theory of aggression, the General Aggression Model (GAM), is proposed. The GAM was developed to explain individual variations in aggression propensity, and specifies several key constructs that are important in influencing aggression: aggression-related knowledge structures, maladaptive cognitions, and anger. Results of this analysis support the notion that people with those personality disorders that are associated with violence have more of these constructs, though the empirical evidence is strongest for Antisocial Personality Disorder, and a number of constructs, including violent scripts, have rarely been studied. The conceptualization offered here provides a focus for researchers to further elucidate the relationship between personality disorder and violence and for clinicians to more systematically assess relevant constructs to determine violence potential in people with personality disorder, and also, to focus their violence reduction efforts on relevant psychological constructs. This analysis also calls into question the use of personality disorder per se for risk assessment or as a criterion by which to determine inclusion or exclusion from mental health treatment or incapacitation. © 2011 American Psychological Association.