descriptive approaches to determine the nature of aggressive and threatening messages, have made a major contribution to our understanding of aggressive communications (Kinney, 1994). A message-based approach is also supportive of the emerging trend in risk management that emphasizes the role of communication. In what is simply referred to as the threat assessment approach, “violence is seen as the product of an interaction among the perpetrator, situation, target, and the setting” (Reddy et al., 2001, p. 167). Analyzing multiple interactions and communicative behaviors is expected to provide valuable insight and information concerning the potential for violence.

A number of propositions will guide our work here. These propositions are rooted in communication theory drawn from a discipline framed by a focus on messages, audience, and credibility.1 They are mentioned here only to frame the analysis and will not be explored in detail.

  • Communication behavior is influenced from both cognitive and affective systems.

  • Communication behavior can be viewed along a continuum of planned to spontaneous.

  • Communication behavior is contextually driven.

  • Communication behavior often involves multiple channels.

  • The expressed intent of message strategies is not always executed.

  • Risk/threat management requires collaborative effort among stakeholders.

  • Risk/threat management is implicated by resource management limitations, first amendment rights, and privacy issues.

  • The risk/threat management system is multidisciplinary, contested, and challenged with different nomenclatures.

How individuals process and respond to messages varies according to personal psychological and social perspectives shaped by culture, history, experiences, and circumstances—in other words, according to their context (Lewenstein and Brossard, 2006). Because of these demands, communicators must acknowledge, tailor, and execute messages with a number of parameters in mind (O’Hair, 2004; Renn, 2009). Similar to classical rhetorical approaches to message development, the contextual model provides guidance for creating messages relevant to individuals


No doubt, many scholars lay claim to the concept of communication as a discipline of study. Our background and the corpora of research pursued in this project are framed primarily from journals sponsored by professional associations whose field of study is communication (e.g., National Communication Association, International Communication Association, Broadcast Education Association, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication).

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