Friday, June 28, 2013

Domestic violence - what works (or doesn't) in reducing recidivism

Just reading over a 2012 Corrections review of the literature regarding what works in reducing domestic violence recidivism. Some interesting passages include:

Internationally, the domestic violence landscape is dominated by two approaches. The Domestic Abuse Intervention Project programme (DAIP,
commonly known as the Duluth programme) is a feminist psycho-educational programme developed in the early 1980s.  It has arguably been the most influential domestic violence programme and remains a prominent intervention with domestically violent men. [The Duluth Programme is based on a feminist psycho-educational model.  An analysis of violence from this perspective suggests it is a result of socio-political forces that are influenced by patriarchal philosophy.  Programmes focus on teaching clients about power and control elements that cause domestic violence.]  Increasing dissatisfaction with the feminist approach and the inability of the socio-political stance (particularly in relation to patriarchal values) to adequately explain female or same-sex violence, led to growing agreement that the current approaches are limited in their success.

No wonder then:

Overall, the research provides more information on what does not work
rather than on effective ways to stop family violence.
Back to the increasing dissatisfaction with the Duluth programme:

 This, coupled with advances in the “What Works” literature, contributed to a gradual shift towards including cognitive-behavioural treatment (CBT) modalities. These two models are the only ones that have been subjected to replicated empirical testing... CBT is based on the idea that a person’s mood and behaviour can be improved by changing dysfunctional thinking.  CBT interventions are generally structured and short-term, and concentrate on present difficulties. Within CBT, domestic violence is conceptualised as a consequence of problems with the person’s thoughts, assumptions, beliefs and behaviours.  Cognitive behavioural interventions for domestic violence assume that violence is a learned behaviour that can be replaced with taught non-violent behaviours.

So what's happening in NZ?

 In New Zealand, very little information is available on the content or success of domestic violence programmes.  A 2003 publication refers to both Duluth and CBT as having influenced local programming....Domestic violence strategy in New Zealand is guided by the Family Violence Ministerial Team, which is advised by the Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families. The current focus of the Taskforce is on allocating resources to interventions with proven impact. As a result, the Ministry of Social Development is moving towards results-based accounting while the Ministry of Justice has reviewed its funded programmes. The Ministry of Justice review was completed in 2010. The associated literature review found no conclusive evidence that programmes are successful, but the authors believed that it was premature to conclude that the programmes cannot work.

So what next?

 ... existing literature supports the importance of developing Kaupapa Māori programmes that address the impact of colonisation and include the whanau and broader community. This is consistent with the Department’s Māori Strategic Plan and the Māori Reference Group’s E Tu Whanau Ora framework, but stands in contrast to current domestic violence approaches.  Interventions for Māori would need to be localised, strengths-based kaupapa Māori programmes that support not only the offender but also the community and risk factors in that community. 

The patriarchal, socio-political, approach doesn't work but the impact of colonisation strategy will?

The paper goes on to examine a number of international studies into existing programmes that show, at best, recidivism reduced by 15 percent.

Babcock, Green and Robie (2004) conducted a meta-analysis of 22 studies published between 1984 and 2003 that evaluated treatment effectiveness for domestically violent males.  Only methodologically rigorous studies were included.  Selection criteria included presence of a comparison group, a follow up period beyond treatment completion and not relying on offenders’ self reports.  

The authors identified no significant difference in the effectiveness of Duluth- type and CBT interventions.  They believed that this might be due at least in part to the two models being almost indistinguishable in many contexts.  Quasi-experimental studies based on partner report produced the largest effect sizes, indicating that treated offenders showed a 15% reduction in recidivism compared to non-treated offenders. More rigorous experimental studies showed that recidivism was 5% less likely by men arrested and referred to an intervention programme than by men arrested and sanctioned without intervention.  The authors cautioned that, while a 5% decrease in violence may appear insignificant, the cost and impact of domestic violence is such that even a small difference would justify intervention.  

But it gets worse:

Feder and Wilson (2005) conducted a meta-analysis of controlled studies that involved randomization of participants and official reports to measure recidivism.  The analysis focused on the effects of post-arrest mandated interventions on reducing intimate partner violence.  Ten North American
studies (four experimental and six quasi-experimental) were included in the
analysis.  All ten used a psycho-educational, feminist oriented and/ or cognitive behavioural approach.  Programme duration ranged from 8 to 32 weeks.  

In contrast to the earlier review (Babcock et al 2004), evidence from the Feder and Wilson (2005) study was mixed.  They found a 7% decrease in recidivism beyond traditional criminal justice interventions, such as probation or community service. When using partner reports as the outcome measure (which is arguably a higher and more accurate estimate of violence recidivism), they found no benefit from domestic violence intervention programmes.  
And even worse:

A number of studies have found increased recidivism in programme non-completers.  
And in conclusion:

The current state of knowledge about domestic violence is not sufficient to
promote any specific treatment modality or programme.   How and why domestically violent offenders desist remain unclear, with the focus of most
studies being on the more general question of whether treatment has resulted in any desistance at all.  Studies on domestic violence programmes are therefore of limited value in guiding future interventions beyond, as noted earlier, to tell us what does not work. 
Well I suppose that's something.

The paper finishes with "Some thoughts on the relative lack of success of domestic violence
programmes," which summarised, question length of intervention, the appropriateness of type of intervention for level of offender and the offender's "idiosyncrasies", the one size fits all inadequacies, lack of whanau support, drop out from programmes, delivery integrity, programmes rolled out too quickly and too extensively, inadequate funding and lack of consequences for non-compliance.

As it stands there is little positive to be said about domestic violence interventions.


Kiwi Dave said...

Lack of evidence has never stopped dogmatists peddling their panaceas and attributing malign motives to sceptics of those panaceas.

Anonymous said...

Women's self defence with firearms has an extremely high success rate at preventing recidivism.