Antisociality Affects Recidivism for Domestic Violence Offenders

Intimate partner violence is a social problem that has plagued communities for generations. The consequences of domestic violence are enormous, including psychological impairment, physical injury, homicide, and suicide. Many perpetrators of domestic violence are incarcerated as a result of their behavior. Although efforts are made to transform the negative actions and behaviors of these individuals, they often return to the same pattern of violence upon their release. The link between psychopathy and criminal behavior has been well established. It has been found in samples of individuals prone to impulsive behaviors, including those with drug and alcohol dependency, aggressive tendencies, and violent criminal pasts. Despite the research on psychopathy and violent offenders, little attention has been given to two specific traits of psychopathy, namely fearless dominance and impulsive antisociality. Further exploration of these traits could shed some light on the high rates of recidivism and treatment cessation for perpetrators of domestic violence.

To get a better look at these relationships, Rachel C. Rock of the Department of Psychology at the University of Alabama surveyed 483 incarcerated male domestic violence offenders. She looked at levels of psychopathy, treatment adherence and completion, and the two traits of impulsive antisociality and fearless dominance. Rock found that the most salient influence on psychopathy was impulsive antisociality and that this trait directly predicted recidivism, regardless of whether treatment was perceived as successful or not. Furthermore, the fearless dominance trait fortified the relationship between antisociality and negative treatment outcome.

Rock believes these findings are insightful and can aid in the design and implementation of batterer interventions. Group therapy is a common mode of therapy for incarcerated batterers, but based on these results may not be the most optimal first option for some. Rock notes the fact that those high in the psychopathic traits of impulsive antisociality and fearless dominance may sabotage the efforts of the clinician. “Thus, individuals high on fearless dominance are bold and narcissistic and reject the notion that they need treatment,” said Rock. “Coupled with impulsive antisociality, this combination of traits increases the likelihood of treatment failure.” Rock recommends the utilization of screening tools to determine which offenders are more likely to contribute positively to group therapy and which may be better served through individual treatment efforts.

Rock, R. C., Sellbom, M., Ben-Porath, Y. S., Salekin, R. T. (2012). Concurrent and predictive validity of psychopathy in a batterers’ intervention sample. Law and Human Behavior. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/lhb0000006

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • White Rabbit

    White Rabbit

    August 1st, 2012 at 2:22 PM

    Thank you for this interesting piece. I’m interested in the link between psychopathy and domestic violence, and I wasn’t aware of Rachel Rocks’ research.

    Couple of things:

    *Your 2nd paragraph doesn’t really illustrate the link between psychopathy and DV. The statements made pertain to psychopaths, but what percentage of the DV inmates studied showed psychopathic traits?

    *You wrote: “Many perpetrators of domestic violence are incarcerated as a result of their behavior.” This is not an accurate statement. Most DV victims never seek help, much less call the police and press charges against their batterers. Of the ones who do follow through with charges, relatively few of the convicted batterers are actually sent to prison.

  • Not understanding

    Not understanding

    August 1st, 2012 at 5:08 PM

    I don’t fully understand your information. I thought the article was well written and quite insightful. If you could shed further light on the two points which you outline it would be greatly appreciated.

  • melissa


    August 1st, 2012 at 2:24 PM

    there’s really no way forwards if one does not want to be treated and behaves dominant in an inappropriate manner.and group therapy is a complete no-no for such people because not only do they harm their own chances of being treated but could also bring down the enthusiasm of others in the group.such people need individual therapy and it is great that they are looking at separating such people and treating them appropriately.

  • Ivy t

    Ivy t

    August 5th, 2012 at 9:14 AM

    So are you saying that those who are the most compulsively antisocial are the ones who will be the most likely to perpetuate intimate partner violence?
    How is it that they are so bold and narcissistic when it comes to dominating their partner yet they want nothing to do with others? They retreat. Think that a lot of this is probbaly because they are always looking for people to be with that they feel like they can win over, that they can control, and they want nothing to do with those whom they know deep down are stronger than they are.

  • Cynthia


    August 7th, 2012 at 3:58 PM

    It would scare me to death to think that my partner had been put in jail for violence against me, and that when he is released chances are great that he will revert to the same sort of behavior!
    I think that I would take the chance to move away and be sure to NOT leave a forwarding address!

  • brad


    October 3rd, 2012 at 5:33 AM

    I would like to read more of this study because from what has been submitted in these paragraphs is both general and subjective lacking substansiation. I reads like a PhD dissertation.

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