Scholarly Research

Neuropsychological Risk Factors

NIMH called the 1990’s “the decade of the brain”. The NIMH strategic plan reads, in part, “This is a time of great scientific excitement in mental health research. Building on new discoveries from genetics, neuroscience, and behavioral science, we are better poised to understand how the brain, behavior, and the environment interact to lead to mental disorders. Mental illnesses are now studied as brain disorders, specifically as disorders of brain circuits.” [italics added]. Along with rapid development in understanding of the neuropsychology of mental disorders has come greater understanding of the neuropsychology of violence.   I have written three papers* in the last two years on the links between neuropsychological factors and domestic violence and in so doing have discovered new avenues for possible interventions and rediscovered some of the same resistance to change endemic in this field.  The current policy/practice paradigm, as maintained at the federal level by the National Institute of Justice, and at the state and local levels by various domestic violence “certifying agencies” and “batterer” intervention providers, excludes from consideration a host of known perpetration risk factors.  Recent research on neurochemical, neuroanatomical and neuropsychological risk for violence suffers the same fate as older research on addiction and mental health issues – deliberately misinterpreted or ignored. Admittedly, neuropsychological risk factors present to judges, and the general criminal justice system in general, complications regarding culpability, accountability, and the proper role of corrections. These complications are magnified in the area of domestic violence perpetration where even the basics of forensic mental have been deliberately excluded from policy and practice for decades.  Whether research into the links between neuropsychological anomalies and domestic violence can be manipulated or misused to mitigate the personal responsibility of perpetrators should not influence whether or not such research is undertaken or respected.  Domestic violence research must better incorporate the new and rapidly expanding research on neuroscience and neurochemistry into its theoretical framing of perpetration or continue to languish in scientific backwaters.

Paul Ekman Book on Emotions

I just finished reading Emotions Revealed, by Paul Ekman (Henry Holt & Company, 2003).  Initially, I was looking for more information about his famous research on the trans-cultural nature of emotions, and how the basic emotions of fear, sadness, anger, disgust, contempt, surprise, and happiness appear to be hard-wired into the human brain.   I was pleasantly surprised to find a great deal of very practical information and advice on how to identify and mange emotions, including anger, from a combined evolutionary/cognitive-behavioral approach.  It is the best book on emotions I have ever read, and directly relevant to the work we do with domestic violence perpetrators.   Our clients not only have difficulties managing strong emotions, but also correctly reading other people’s emotions and other social cues.  I would love to hear feedback from other ADVIP members who are familiar with Ekman’s work.

National Survey for Domestic Violence Intervention Programs

Currently, we are conducting the National Survey for Domestic Violence Intervention Programs, the largest survey of its kind into the demographics, philosophy, and structure of batterer intervention programs across the U.S. and Canada. The aim of this study is to ascertain what domestic violence batterer intervention programs are like across the country. In order to determine this, we have developed a survey that investigates facilitator demographics, client demographics, facilitator insights, and program logistics. By doing so, we will be better able not only to understand how batterer intervention programs operate on the ground but also to develop more accurate policy recommendations in order to improve interventions.

Batterer intervention programs have become the most likely type of intervention after a domestic violence plea or conviction. An exhaustive review of the literature on batterer intervention programs found that some studies have resulted in mixed findings, due in part to flawed research design, but that some recent studies have shown cautious optimism about the positive intervention some batterer intervention programs provide (Eckhardt et al. 2013). Given these findings, such a study as ours is crucial to understanding how effective batterer intervention programs are across the nation and what can be done to improve them in order to reduce instances of intimate partner violence. In their study on leadership, philosophy, and structure of 276 batterer intervention programs in 45 states, Price and Rosenbaum (2009) found that although batterers are not a homogenous group, interventions are based on a “one size fits all” model. Given their findings, we propose to expand the case base to 3,500 batterer intervention programs across the U.S. and Canada. We also aim to study not only the philosophy and structure of these programs, but also the demographics of both facilitators and clients. Once the survey is completed, we intend to use them to publish journal articles about what we find as well as use them to create evidence based arguments for policy changes (assuming any are needed).

If you work at a batterer intervention program please participate in our survey by clicking this link https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/NSDVIP 

Clare Cannon, Tulane University

Violence against women and mental health

Violence against Women and Mental Health – MHP

Violence against women is a serious social and mental health problem and human rights abuse worldwide. It is an extremely complex phenomenon, deeply rooted in gender based power relations, sexuality, self-identity, and social institutions that pose a serious threat to women”s mental health. This paper discusses the various factors behind violence against women with some cases and its consequences on women”s mental health and wellbeing. The paper suggests that recognizing violence against women as a mental health issue is an essential first step which requires concerted and multi-sector responses backed by strong political commitment aimed at ending discrimination and violence against women.

Domestic Violence Research Worldwide

For those of you interested in research on domestic violence in countries outside of the United States, you might want to read the literature review by Esquivel-Santovena, Lambert and Hamel (2012).  The full reference is: Esquivel-Santovena, E., Lambert, T., & Hamel, J. (2013). Partner abuse worldwide. Partner Abuse, 4(1), 6-75.  This article is part of the Partner Abuse State of Knowledge Project (PASK), and  is available for free to anyone who is interested.   Just go to www.domesticviolenceresearch.org.  On the left side, under PASK, click on “17 Full PASK Manuscripts and Tables of Summarized Studies.”  This will take you to all of the PASK literature reviews, including the one by Esquivel-Santovena et al.  A list of international researchers and thier contact information can be found on the left side of the home page by clicking on “INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH.”

Two articles on the effectiveness of intervention programs in Europe can be found on the ADVIP website, in the “articles” page under “research.”