Instrumental and Reactive Intimate Partner Violence: Offender Characteristics, Reoffense Rates, and Risk Management

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Abstract

Intimate partner violence (IPV) research has consistently demonstrated that abusive men are a heterogeneous group comprising men who differ in terms of individual characteristics, psychopathology, and presumably, also in terms of the nature and severity of their violent behavior. Some partner-violent men use violence instrumentally in a way that is planned, methodical, and goal-oriented, whereas other partner-violent men are reactive by acting out of anger, in response to a perceived threat (e.g., sexual jealousy). By extension, it would be expected that these subtypes may be differentiated by their risk for recidivism and in terms of the strategies that most likely to mitigate violence risk. The aim of the current study was to determine differences between instrumental and reactive intimate partner abusers that might be relevant for offender management and treatment. The files of 105 partner-violent men whose files were referred for threat assessment were reviewed and their data were coded. Instrumental partner-violent men were differentiated from reactive partner-violent men by higher overall risk scores, IPV supportive attitudes, offense characteristics and a lower prevalence of early life trauma. Discrepancies between predicted and observed recidivism outcomes suggest that factors that were unaccounted for in the current research may have differentially influenced outcomes for instrumental and reactive abusers.

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