Desistance from intimate partner violence: A critical review

Kate Walker, Erica Bowen, Sarah J. Brown

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    38 Citations (Scopus)


    Evidence suggests that a significant proportion of men who have been violent towards their partners desist from such violent behaviors; yet, research examining desistance from intimate partner violence (IPV) is limited. This omission is surprising given that an understanding of desistance processes is required to inform evidence-based IPV interventions. In this critical review of the empirical literature, eligible studies included 15 publications, identified through electronic databases and hand searches of bibliographies that directly investigated the cessation of physical violence against an intimate partner, by heterosexual men. No single theory was identified that explains desistance from IPV. However, empirical studies reveal that the severity and frequency of violence is associated with desistance, with those using moderate levels of violence being more likely to desist than those who engage in severe violence. Typology research suggests differences in individual characteristics (e.g., low psychopathology and impulsivity) can distinguish desisters from persisters. In addition, the nature of the dyad within which the violence occurs is also influential in desistance processes. It is concluded that much more research is needed to inform practice and in particular to examine the role of protective factors in mitigating risk and enabling individuals to desist from IPV.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)271-280
    JournalAggression and Violent Behavior
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

    Bibliographical note

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    • desistance
    • intimate partner violence
    • protective factors
    • risk factors
    • typologies


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