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Am J Psychiatry. 1998 Sep;155(9):1254-60.

Factual sources of psychiatric patients' perceptions of coercion in the hospital admission process.

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Center for Research on Mental Health Services, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester 01655, USA.



The purpose of this study was to determine what predicts patients' perceptions of coercion surrounding admission to a psychiatric hospital.


For 171 cases, the authors integrated data from interviews with patients, admitting clinicians, and other individuals involved in the patients' psychiatric admissions with data from the medical records. Using a structured set of procedures, coders determined whether or not nine coercion-related behaviors occurred around the time of admission. Correlation and regression analyses were used to describe the predictors of patients' scores on the MacArthur Perceived Coercion Scale.


The use of legal force, being given orders, threats, and "a show of force" were all strongly correlated with perceived coercion. A least squares regression accounted for 43.3% of the variance in perceived coercion. The evidence also suggested that force is typically only used in conjunction with less coercive pressures.


Force and negative symbolic pressures, such as threats and giving orders about admission decisions, induce perceptions of coercion in persons with mental illness. Positive symbolic pressures, such as persuasion, do not induce perceptions of coercion. Such positive pressures should be tried in order to encourage admission before force or negative pressures are used.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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