Desistance from Intimate Partner Violence

  • Kate Walker

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Limited research has examined desistance from intimate partner violence (IPV). In this thesis the aims are to explore the role that individual, social / environmental factors and subjective change (personal agency) play in the process of desistance from male perpetrated IPV, and to develop and examine a multifactorial theory of desistance from male perpetrated IPV.

    As research about desistance has tended to more prominent in the criminological literature and in relation to general offending and delinquency, the aim of the first part of this thesis was to undertake two critical reviews on desistance from violence and desistance from IPV. It was found that research in these areas has been neglected. It was concluded that a psychological approach to desistance is required whereby the findings are integrated into the models developed in the criminological literature, in order to develop a multifactorial theory of desistance. Specifically, it was found that pertinent to IPV, severity and frequency of violence was related to desistance and typology research indicated that personality characteristics might distinguish desisters from persisters. The nature of the dyad within which the IPV takes place was also found to be relevant specifically to the study of desistance from IPV and therefore, in need of further examination.

    In the empirical study, group comparisons on the Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory III subscales were conducted between a purposive sample of 37 desisters, 50 persisters and 49 controls. It was found that Cluster A and Cluster B disorders and disorders at a diagnostic level were more often reported in the groups that had used violence against an intimate compared to the control group. The rates and percentages of clinically meaningful traits and disorders were lower for the desisters than the persisters. Overall the desisters were more like the controls than the persisters across the personality traits and clinical syndromes measured.

    In the qualitative study, thematic analysis was conducted on data derived from interviews with 13 desisters, nine persisters, nine treatment facilitators and seven survivors. A conceptual model of desistance was developed that demonstrated desistance from IPV is a dynamic process that gradually unfolds over time. The model comprised three global themes: (i) The cycle of lifestyle behaviours (violent): ‘Old way of being’ (the experiences, behaviours and thinking of the men when they used violence); (ii) Catalysts for change (the triggers and transitions experienced that initiated change); and (iii) The cycle of lifestyle behaviours (non-violent); ‘New way of being’ (the experiences, behaviours and thinking of the men when they stopped using violence).

    The integrated findings illustrate that the path from persistence to desistance is neither linear, nor shared by all IPV offenders. A complex interaction between structure and agency characterised the process. Future research needs to adopt a longitudinal design to gain a clearer understanding of the temporal sequencing of events leading to desistance, and also to determine whether the characteristics that differentiated the groups studied change over time. In addition, it is proposed that individual assessment is required for each offender of IPV. Treatment could then be developed to meet individual needs, which may increase the effectiveness of rehabilitation for IPV perpetrators.
    Date of Award2013
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorErica Bowen (Supervisor), Sarah Brown (Supervisor), Emma Sleath (Supervisor) & Barry Mitchell (Supervisor)

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