Chapter Summary and Learning Objectives
- Describe the definition and scope of intimate partner abuse in adult relationships, from the perspective of perpetration, including problems inherent in measuring this form of abuse.
- Identify the various risk factors associated with perpetration of intimate partner abuse in adult relationships.
- Discuss the various intervention and prevention efforts that focus on perpetration of intimate partner abuse in adult relationships, including evidence of their effectiveness.
This chapter focused on IPV perpetration in adult relationships. We defined an IPV perpetrator or a batterer as a person who uses or threatens to use physical, sexual, or psychological abuse against a partner, which constitutes a pattern of coercive control. Yet we also noted that batterers often depict themselves as victims, rather than perpetrators, and they typically underestimate the frequency, severity, and harmful effects of their abuse.
Both men and women may perpetrate IPV, but claims of gender symmetry or parity in IPV perpetration are not supported by the majority of empirical studies. The evidence shows that men are significantly more likely to perpetrate IPV than women. Research also demonstrates gender differences in the types of IPV perpetrated and in the motivations for using force against an intimate partner.
We reviewed research on a variety of perpetration risk factors, which, in addition to sex and sexual orientation, include age, race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, immigration status, psychological functioning, substance use, family of origin abuse, and attitudes and beliefs supportive of IPV. While most studies of risk factors have focused on individuals, more attention is now being given to community and structural risk factors, including patriarchal gender norms in the larger society and neighborhood characteristics that increase risk for residents.
Although historically the response to IPV perpetrators was weak at best, legal reforms during the 1980s and 1990s—for example, mandatory and preferred arrest policies, victimless prosecution, and no-drop prosecution—resulted in a significant increase in IPV arrests, prosecutions, and convictions. Today, the legal system is the standard formal response to IPV, although critics have raised concerns about problems such as dual arrests and disproportionately harsher treatment of minority men, leading some to call for the use of alternative interventions, such as restorative justice.
Most IPV perpetrators, we learned, are mandated to treatment in batterer intervention programs (BIPs), which vary in length, treatment approach, and curriculum. Evaluations of BIPs in terms of their effectiveness in reducing recidivism have shown short-term success, but the extent to which they produce genuine, long-term behavioral change is less clear. Research is also needed on targeted and more general IPV prevention programs, which to date remain largely unevaluated.