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The association between common mental disorders and violence: to what extent is it influenced by prior victimization, negative life events and low levels of social support?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 September 2013

M. ten Have*
Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, Utrecht, The Netherlands
R. de Graaf
Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, Utrecht, The Netherlands
J. van Weeghel
Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands
S. van Dorsselaer
Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, Utrecht, The Netherlands
*Address for correspondence: M. ten Have, Ph.D., Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction, Da Costakade 45, 3521 VS Utrecht, The Netherlands. (Email:



Few studies have been published on the association between mental disorders and violence based on general population studies. Here we focus on different types of violence, adjusting for violent victimization and taking account of the limitations of previous population studies.


Data were used from the first two waves of the Netherlands Mental Health Survey and Incidence Study-2 (NEMESIS-2), a nationally representative face-to-face survey of the general population aged 18–64 years (n = 6646). Violence was differentiated into physical and psychological violence against intimate partner(s), children or any person(s) in general. DSM-IV diagnoses were assessed with the Composite International Diagnostic Interview Version 3.0 (CIDI 3.0).


Psychological violence occurs considerably more frequently than physical violence, but both showed almost identical associations with mental disorders. After adjustment for sociodemographic characteristics, most of the main categories of common mental disorders were associated with violence. The strongest associations were found for externalizing disorders (substance use, impulse-control, antisocial personality disorder). After additional adjustment for violent victimization, negative life events and social support, most diagnostic correlates lost their significance whereas substance use (in particular alcohol) disorders were still associated with most types of violence.


The increased risk of violent offending among people with common mental disorders, other than substance use disorders, can be attributed to factors other than their mental illness.

Original Articles
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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