U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Developmental Theory and Battering Incidents: Examining the Relationship Between Discrete Offender Groups and Intimate Partner Violence

NCJ Number
Date Published
91 pages
Publication Series
In an examination of intimate partner violence from a developmental and life-span perspective, this study incorporated the recent developmental theory by Moffitt (1993).
Moffitt's theory identifies two development typologies of offending behavior: life-course-persistent and adolescent-limited offending. The life-course persistent offender exhibits fairly stable antisocial behavioral patterns; tends not to be especially reflective and verbal; and embraces a wide range of behavioral patterns, including diverse offending activities. Adolescent-limited offenders, on the other hand, undergo a decline in offending in the transition from adolescence into adulthood. The current study hypothesized that life-course-persistent offenders were more at risk for committing intimate partner violence than other offender groups, including adolescent-limited offenders. This study's conceptual model, which links Moffitt's life-course-persistent offending typology with intimate partner violence, identifies how the combination of violence in the offender's childhood home, coupled with exposure to negative life events (e.g., parental separations, family moves), increases the probability of early delinquency. In testing this model, the study used existing data from a sample of parolees and their spouses (n=194) in Buffalo, NY, in 1987 to examine relationships between discrete offender groups (e.g., high-rate versus low-rate offenders) consistent with Moffitt's theory and subsequent intimate partner violence. The research also examined a range of factors that were expected to be associated with intimate partner violence, including alcohol and substance abuse history, early exposure and experiences with violence, and a range of psychological and social factors. The study found that life-course-persistent offenders experienced higher levels of social adversity while growing up, including higher levels of exposure to violence in their childhood home. They also experienced more negative life outcomes than other offender groups, including greater lifetime alcohol problems, more illicit drug use, higher levels of violent crime, and higher levels of intimate partner violence in adulthood. Early exposure to violence during childhood was associated with a range of negative outcomes, such as early delinquency onset, alcohol problems, and violence. Results from Poisson regression models showed that life-course-persistent offenders had a higher probability of intimate partner violence in adulthood. Additional salient influences that predicted partner violence included drug and alcohol abuse. These findings suggest that interventions which target serious offenders can have the additional benefit of reducing the likelihood of intimate partner violence. Extensive tables and figures, 43 references, and appended listing of factors considered

Date Published: January 1, 2002