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Behav Sci Law. 1993 Summer;11(3):281-93.

Patient, family, and staff perceptions of coercion in mental hospital admission: an exploratory study.

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  • 1University of Virginia School of Law, Charlottesville 22901, USA.


Little is known about the coercive pressures brought to bear on psychiatric patients in the hospitalization process. Significant methodological hurdles stand in the way of this research. Most notably, reliable and valid methods of ascertaining and quantifying perceptions of coercion have not been developed. This report summarizes the findings of an exploratory study designed to gather data needed to refine the conceptualization and measurement of coercion. Multiple perspectives on admission incidents for forty-three patients (26% of whom were involuntarily hospitalized) were obtained. Patients were administered research interviews and completed a self-administered inventory shortly after the admission decision. The admitting clinician and a family member involved in the admission were administered parallel interviews. In addition, focus groups comprised of outpatients, former patients, family members, and clinical staff were conducted to uncover the terminology and description of coercion commonly used. The implications of these preliminary quantitative and qualitative findings for future research are discussed.

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