Identifying Potentially Violent Individuals

The STAMP - which stands for Staring and eye contact, Tone and volume of voice, Anxiety, Mumbling and Pacing – violence assessment framework could be used by any professionals in potentially violent situations, such as law enforcement and social services. Luck carried out 290 hours of observation and interviewed 20 Registered Nurses who agreed to take part in the study.

“During my time in the department there were 16 violent episodes aimed at staff taking part in the study” says Lauretta Luck, who carried out her research at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. “Because I was on the spot I was able to obtain feedback from them while the event was still fresh in their minds. They were able to tell me how they perceived the event and how they tried to handle it.”

Key findings of the study included:

•Staring was an important early indicator of potential violence. It was frequently noted in observational data and featured in nine of the 16 observed violent episodes. Nurses felt that staring was used to intimidate them into prompter action – when they responded to this cue violence tended to be avoided.

•Lack of eye contact was also an issue and was associated with anger and passive resistance. However, there can be cultural reasons for avoiding eye contact and it was important to differentiate these from other cases.

•Tone and volume of voice was associated with 13 of the 16 violent episodes. Most of the cases involved raised voices and yelling but two involved sarcastic and caustic replies.

•Eleven of the 16 patients who became violent were observed mumbling, using slurred or incoherent speech or repeatedly asking the same question or making the same statements. Mumbling was perceived to be a sign of mounting frustration and a cue for violence.

“We feel that the STAMP system provides an easy to remember checklist that can be used in a wide range of potentially stressful situations to provide an initial indication of possible violence”, says Luck.; Source: Blackwell Publishing