Disentangling the Risk Assessment and Intimate Partner Violence Relation: Estimating Mediating and Moderating Effects

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Abstract

To manage intimate partner violence (IPV), the criminal justice system has turned to risk assessment instruments to predict if a perpetrator will reoffend. Empirically determining whether offenders assessed as high risk are those who recidivate is critical for establishing the predictive validity of IPV risk assessment instruments and for guiding the supervision of perpetrators. But by focusing solely on the relation between calculated risk scores and subsequent IPV recidivism, previous studies of the predictive validity of risk assessment instruments omitted mediating factors intended to mitigate the risk of this behavioral recidivism. The purpose of this study was to examine the mediating effects of such factors and the moderating effects of risk assessment on the relation between assessed risk (using the Domestic Violence Screening Instrument-Revised [DVSI-R]) and recidivistic IPV. Using a sample of 2,520 perpetrators of IPV, results revealed that time sentenced to jail and time sentenced to probation each significantly mediated the relation between DVSI-R risk level and frequency of reoffending. The results also revealed that assessed risk moderated the relation between these mediating factors and IPV recidivism, with reduced recidivism (negative estimated effects) for high-risk perpetrators but increased recidivism (positive estimate effects) for low-risk perpetrators. The implication is to assign interventions to the level of risk so that no harm is done.

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