Written content indicators of problematic approach behavior toward political officials

Katherine A. Schoeneman, Mario J. Scalora, Charles D. Darrow, Julia E. Mclawsen, Grace H. Chang, William J. Zimmerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Those charged with assessing and managing threatening communications must utilize risk factors that are behavioral, operational, and reasonably attainable during investigations. This project examined 326 written correspondence cases of an inappropriate, disruptive, or threatening nature that targeted political officials, with the specific goal of identifying written content indicators of problematic approach behavior. Results revealed that subjects who engaged in problematic approach activity toward their targets had more criminal history, past threat assessment activity, familiarity with firearms, past substance use, and indicators of serious mental illness. Approachers were more likely to engage in multiple contact methods, target dispersion, more overall contacts, and prior contact with their target. Numerous content themes were associated with future problematic approach, including longer handwritten correspondence, referencing specific events, making demands, mentioning stressors, focus on personal themes, feeling their rights were violated, and expressing an intention to approach. Harassing, insulting, and threatening language was not related to approach behavior. The implications of these findings are wide-ranging for the practice of threat assessment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)284-301
Number of pages18
JournalBehavioral Sciences and the Law
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Law


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