Judgments of dangerousness: Are sex offenders assessed differently than civil psychiatric patients?

Cynthia Calkins Mercado, Eric B. Elbogen, Mario Scalora, Alan Tomkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Although there has been a great deal of research on sex offenders, researchers have yet to examine how clinicians assess sex offender dangerousness in practice. The purpose of this study was to take a first step toward understanding how professional and paraprofessional “clinicians” assess sex offenders by comparing how they assess violence in this population with how they assess violence of civil psychiatric patients. Thirty‐five clinicians were asked to list factors they used to assess risk of dangerousness for eight recently discharged patients and to further rate the patients on risk cues derived from the Psychopathy Checklist‐Short Version (PCL‐SV), rendering a total of 280 judgments of dangerousness. Results indicated that clinicians most commonly considered clinical and behavioral types of factors for assessing violence of both clinical populations, however, notable differences emerged when analysing the specific violence risk factors utilised. In particular, clinicians working with sex offenders emphasised contextual factors such as employment opportunities and social support while clinicians working with psychiatric patients emphasised medication compliance as well as underlying psychotic processes, such as delusional thinking and guardedness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)146-153
Number of pages8
JournalPsychiatry, Psychology and Law
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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