The reliability and validity of the External Hostile Attributions Scale (EHAS) in a sample of civil psychiatric patients and criminal offenders

Violence, victimization, and suicide-related behaviours have many negative consequences on society and are viewed as critical public health issues. It is estimated that 2,000,000 violent crimes are committed each year in Canada, and that costs to victims, such as health services, approximate $47 billion annually (Statistics Canada, 2003). In addition to the important costs to the healthcare system, these violent outcomes greatly affect individuals’ quality of life as well as mental and physical health. Melissa Hendry’s research aims to reduce the risk of these negative behaviours by investigating risk factors for such behaviours; specifically, she is interested in hostile attributions, which is the attribution of malevolent intent to others, which she will study in a sample of civil psychiatric patients and criminal offenders. This research will assess participants’ level of hostile attributions using a new measure of hostile attributions, as well as other variables such as psychiatric symptoms, substance use, and criminal attitudes, to see how these relate to one another. Another purpose of her project is to look at the association between hostile attributions and behaviours such as violence, victimization, self-harm, and suicidal ideation and attempts. Exploring this research area to a greater degree could have far-reaching consequences in terms of decreasing the incidence of violence-related adverse outcomes in civil psychiatric patients and criminal offenders, thereby enhancing overall population health and reducing health care system costs. The results of Melissa’s research are expected to raise implications for reducing the risk of harmful behaviours in these individuals in terms of implementing new treatment and intervention programs.