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Batterer Intervention Programs Often Do Not Change Offender Behavior

Date Published
July 5, 2011

Courts often mandate that convicted abusive partners attend batterer intervention programs in addition to serving a probation term. NIJ researchers have evaluated the most common batterer intervention programs. Most findings show that these programs do not change batterers' attitudes toward women or domestic violence, and that they have little to no impact on reoffending.

One study did find that men who were married and had a stake in the community (such as owning a home) and men who completed the full program were slightly less likely to reoffend. [1]

Other batterer program evaluations have been conducted, but with inconsistent results. One approach that researchers may use to integrate the results from various evaluations is known as meta-analysis. Two separate meta-analyses carried out on the more rigorous batterer intervention studies found that these programs have, at best, a modest or minimal benefit.[2, 3]

What Is the Future Batterer Intervention Programs

Contradictory research results have created confusion among professionals who work in fields related to domestic violence and criminal justice.

To explore how the systems that work with perpetrators of domestic violence could be improved and how research could be more helpful to the field, the Family Violence Prevention Fund and NIJ co-sponsored a meeting on batterer intervention programs and domestic violence research and practice in December 2009. Attendees examined the state of the current research on batterer intervention programs, highlighted some innovative practices and looked at how related fields of research are approaching similar problems.  

One result of this meeting is recommendations for research and practice. See:

Common themes among participants included:

  • Intervention programs are successful with some men but no consensus was reached on the percentage of men who stop their violence as a result of program participation.
  • There is no mechanism in place that captures best practices.
  • There are key elements of a model program, see page seven in the report Batterer Intervention: Doing the Work and Measuring the Progress (pdf, 22 pages).
  • There is a gap between what researchers emphasize when they evaluate batterer intervention programs and what practitioners consider reflective of their program goals and accomplishments.
  • Despite recent efforts to reach common ground on what constitutes program success, the field continues to struggle with disparate definitions for many key program concepts.

Divergent themes among participants included:

  • The future role of batterer intervention programs in the criminal justice systems response to intimate partner violence.
  • How to hold men who batter accountable for their behavior.
  • How to respond to the challenges the field faces from the conflicting research and from the current emphasis on evidence-based practice.

Read a summary of a 2002 workshop discussion "Batterer Intervention: Where Do We Go From Here?"

[note 1] Jackson, S., L. Feder, D.R. Forde, R.C. Davis, C.D. Maxwell, and B.G. Taylor. Batterer Intervention Programs: Where Do We Go From Here? Research Report, Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, June 2003, NCJ 195079.

[note 2] Feder, L., and D.B. Wilson. “A Meta-Analytic Review of Court-Mandated Batterer Intervention Programs: Can Courts Affect Abusers' Behavior?” Journal of Experimental Criminology
1 (2005): 239–262.

[3] Babcock, J.C., C.E. Green, and C. Robie. “Does Batterers' Treatment Work? A Meta-Analytic Review of Domestic Violence Treatment.” Clinical Psychology Review 23 (2004): 1023-1053.

National Institute of Justice, "Batterer Intervention Programs Often Do Not Change Offender Behavior," July 5, 2011, nij.ojp.gov:
Date Created: July 5, 2011