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Stressful or aversive events such as frustrations, annoyances, insults, and assaults by another are seen in this model as filtered through certain cognitive processes in the individual who is the subject of assessment. Novaco conceptualizes these cognitive processes as being of two types: appraisals and expectations.
Appraisals refer to the manner in which an individual interprets an event as a provocation and therefore experiences it as aversive. Perceived intentionality is perhaps the clearest example of an antagonistic appraisal (e.g., "You didn't just bump into me, you meant to hit me"). How a person cognitively appraises an event may have a great influence on whether he or she ultimately responds to it in a violent manner. Some persons may be prone to interpret seemingly innocuous interactions as intentional slights. The chips on their shoulders may be precariously balanced.
Both expectations and appraisals may be reflected in the "private speech" or self-statements a person uses regarding violent behavior (e.g., "Anybody who insults my wife gets hit."). Violent delusions and fantasies may be thought of as extreme forms of such private conversations and statements of intention that are directly verbalized (i.e., threats of violence) may be particularly significant. For our purposes, appraisals and expectations may both be categorized as cognitive factors that "predispose" toward or "inhibit" violent behavior. These cognitive processes, in turn, may either give rise to certain affective or emotional reactions or may directly propel a behavioral response.
One need not be emotionally aroused to commit violent acts (e.g., the stereotypic "hitman" of Godfather fame). If, as is more typical, affective reactions are intervening, they may be viewed as either of a predisposing or an inhibiting type. Affective reactions predisposing a person toward violence would include the emotions of anger and hatred. While anger is not necessary for the occurrence of violent behavior, its arousal is a significant antecedent to aggression (Rule and Nesdale 1976). Fortunately, excellent work on the clinical assessment of anger is currently available (Novaco 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979). Affective reactions inhibiting violence (or, to put it more positively, predisposing toward peacefulness) include what have been called the "moral emotions" of empathy for the source of a frustration and guilt about injuring another, as well as anxiety reactions about engaging in violence or about the victim's possible retaliation. The lack of capacity for such affect has been viewed as the hallmark of the "sociopath" (Dinitz 1978).
In a state of alcohol or other drug-induced intoxication, many factors that ordinarily would serve to inhibit violence may be suppressed. The likelihood of such suppression should be estimated.
These affective reactions are then behaviorally expressed in terms of a coping response which, for our purposes, may be dichotomized as violent or nonviolent. The type of response chosen may go on to influence further stressful events, as would be the case when a divorce would eliminate interaction with a frustrating spouse or murder would precipitate the stresses of imprisonment. Whether or not a given coping response attenuates or exacerbates further life stresses would have relevance to whether a given level of violence potential could be expected to increase or decrease. As Toch (1969) emphasized, violence may be thought of as interactional in nature. If one person's coping response (e.g., insulting a person perceived as a threat) leads the other to escalate his or her provocations, violence may eventually ensue.
Several of the relationships expressed in figure 2 are bidirectional (as indicated by the arrows). This is meant to indicate that affective reactions can influence cognitive processes (e.g., "I feel so upset that I must be really angry") and that behavioral responses can affect both cognitions (e.g., "I hit him, therefore I must want to hurt him") and emotions (e.g., "I avoided her, therefore I must be angry at her").
The Novaco model of anger, as adapted here, is not exhaustive of the factors that influence violence. Demographic and historical factors, for example, are not addressed (hence, we inquire into them elsewhere in the assessment). But as a depiction of the cognitive and affective factors involved in violent behavior, the adapted Novaco model seems to capture well the essence of much of what must be assessed in violence prediction.
The kinds of stressors in which we are interested are those likely to be met with violent coping responses; While the kinds of stressors (e.g., frustrations, annoyances, insults, injuries) likely to result in violence are dependent upon the ways in which the individual cognitively and affectively processes them, and in fact may be thought of as fundamentally idiosyncratic in nature (see the next question), some general commonalities may exist among the kinds of situational demands likely to lead to violence. Based on the earlier analysis of the situational correlates of violent behavior (chapter 5), at least three broad areas of concern suggest themselves.
1. Family stressors. The frustrations and
annoyances attendant to husband-wife and parent-child relationships, as many
Reflection Exercise #7
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