• Journal Article

Real in Their Consequences: A Sociological Approach to Understanding the Association between Psychotic Symptoms and Violence

Citation

Link, B. G., Monahan, J., Stueve, A., & Cullen, F. T. (1999). Real in Their Consequences: A Sociological Approach to Understanding the Association between Psychotic Symptoms and Violence. American Sociological Review, 64(2), 316-332.

Abstract

Studies conducted over the past three decades have consistently reported an association between mental illness and violence. We propose a sociologically inspired explanation for this association by referring to the Thomas Theorem--if situations are defined as real, they are real in their consequences. We identify a small subset of psychotic symptoms, termed 'threat/ control-override' symptoms, that tend to induce violence because they influence the definitions of situations. Our data come from an epidemiological study conducted in Israel that includes a psychiatrist- administered diagnostic interview. We find an association between violent behaviors and psychiatric diagnosis that cannot be accounted for by sociodemographic variables. Threat/control-override symptoms also are strongly related to violent behaviors and explain a substantial part of the association between violence and psychiatric diagnoses. Other equally severe psychotic symptoms are not related to indicators of violence when threat/control-override symptoms are controlled. These findings support our explanation for the association between mental illness and violence, and challenge the stereotype that most people with mental illnesses are dangerous