Practical Implications of Current Domestic Violence Research: For Law Enforcement, Prosecutors and Judges

Published June 2009

Chapter 8. Intervention Programs

Section 8 — Which batterers are likely to fail to attend mandated batterer intervention treatment?

Researchers generally agree that there are a number of variables associated with failure to complete programs. They include being younger, having less education, having greater criminal histories and violence in their family of origin, being less often employed and less motivated to change, having substance abuse problems, having children, and lacking court sanctions for noncompliance. [15, 45, 46, 61, 86, 97, 98, 181, 194] A number of studies emphasize the positive correlation between program completion and "stakes in conformity," including the variables of age (being older), marital status (being married) and employment (being employed). [12, 61]

Studies also find that many of the same variables that predict noncompletion also predict reabuse or general recidivism. In the Florida probation study, an examination of court-referred batterers found that the same characteristics that predicted rearrest (including prior criminal history and stakes in conformity) also predicted missing at least one court-mandated program session. [61] Other studies, including a study of two Brooklyn batterer intervention programs, also found that employment correlated both positively with completion and negatively with rearrest. [31]

However, prior criminal history remains the strongest and most consistent predictor of noncompletion and new arrests. In the Brooklyn study, defendants with a prior arrest history were found to be four times more likely to fail to complete programs than defendants without prior arrests. [31] The Bronx court study similarly found that prior arrests as well as a history of drug abuse predicted both noncompletion and recidivism and found background demographics to be less important. [183]

Implications for Prosecutors and Judges

Screening referrals based on the common variables found to correlate with successful completion — age, prior criminal history and substance abuse — can reduce program failure. Alternatively, supplemental conditions targeting abusers with these characteristics may be necessary to assure successful program participation. (Research basis: Although not all studies find the same array of variables that predict program completion, reabuse and/or general recidivism, almost all of them find overlapping variables of age, prior criminal history and substance abuse.)

Date Created: June 5, 2009