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Section 17
Do Batterer Programs Really Work?

Question 17 | Test | Table of Contents

To know whether batterer programs work, one must first decide what “work” means. Most studies have used a criterion of complete cessation of violence (Tolman & Edleson, 1995). Some focus on reducing violence, rather than eliminating it (e.g., Poynter, 1989), often because it is easier to demonstrate reducing versus eliminating violence. Some authors (Edleson, 1995; Tolman & Bennett, 1990) caution against focusing on reduction, however, because a perpetrator could reduce his violence and still be dangerous to his partner. A few studies have focused on psychological variables, such as anger and jealousy, and have not actually measured violence after treatment at all (Saunders & Hanusa, 1986).

Areas Needing Greater Attention

Some providers have argued that greater attention needs to be paid to threats, other forms of psychological aggression (Rosenfeld, 1992; Tolman & Edleson, 1995), and sexual aggression. Few studies have incorporated such measures, however (Harrell, 1991, and Poynter, 1989, are exceptions). It has also been suggested that measures of increases in positive and caring behaviors of perpetrators and well­being of partners and children should be included as measures of outcome (Tolman & Edleson, 1995). Few studies have considered whether a decrease in some kinds of abusive behaviors, but increases in others, still qualifies as success (Gondoif, 1995). Some authors (Gondolf, 1987b) propose that true success would involve former perpetrators joining the social movement against partner violence. Anecdotal reports indicate that some former perpetrators have, in fact, done just that (Common Purpose, 1996).

Relevant Timeframe
The relevant timeframe is also an important consideration (Gondolf, 1995). How long a period of nonviolence counts as success? Too short a period may not provide an accurate estimate, especially is the perpetrators are also being monitored by parole officers during that period. Too long a period may make follow-ups too difficult.

- Roberts, A. R., PhD. (1998). Battered Women and Their Families. Springer Publishing Company: New York.

What criterion do most studies use to determine if a batterer program is successful? To select and enter your answer go to Test.

Section 18
Table of Contents