Risk Factors for Intimate Partner Violence: A Comparison of Antisocial and Family-Only Perpetrators

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DOI: 10.1177/0886260516640547
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Abstract
Subtyping male perpetrators of intimate partner violence (IPV) based on their generality of violence could facilitate the difficult task of matching perpetrator subtype with efficient risk management strategies. As such, the aim of the present study was to compare antisocial and family-only male perpetrators of interpersonal violence in terms of (a) demographic and legal characteristics, (b) risk factors for violence, and (c) assessed risk and the importance of specific risk factors for violence. A quantitative design was used in this retrospective register study on data obtained from the Swedish police. Risk assessments performed with the Swedish version of the Brief Spousal Assault Form for the Evaluation of Risk (B-SAFER) and police registers were used. A sample of 657 male alleged IPV perpetrators were classified asantisocial(n= 341) orfamily-only(n= 316) based on their generality of violence. The results showed that the antisocial perpetrators were significantly younger, as well as more psychologically abusive. Antisocial perpetrators also had significantly more present risk factors for IPV, and were assessed with a significantly higher risk for acute and severe or deadly IPV, compared with the family-only perpetrators. The subtypes also evidenced unique risk factors with a significant impact on elevated risk for acute and severe or deadly such violence. Key findings in the present study concerned the subtypes evidencing unique risk factors increasing the risk for acute and severe or deadly IPV. Major implications of this study include the findings of such unique "red flag" risk factors for each subtype. To prevent future IPV, it is vital for the risk assessor to be aware of these red flags when making decisions about risk, as well as risk management strategies.
Journal of Interpersonal Violence
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DOI: 10.1177/0886260516640547
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Article
Risk Factors for Intimate
Partner Violence: A
Comparison of
Antisocial and Family-
Only Perpetrators
Joakim Petersson,1 Susanne Strand,2,3
and Heidi Selenius2
Abstract
Subtyping male perpetrators of intimate partner violence (IPV) based on
their generality of violence could facilitate the difficult task of matching
perpetrator subtype with efficient risk management strategies. As such, the
aim of the present study was to compare antisocial and family-only male
perpetrators of interpersonal violence in terms of (a) demographic and
legal characteristics, (b) risk factors for violence, and (c) assessed risk and
the importance of specific risk factors for violence. A quantitative design
was used in this retrospective register study on data obtained from the
Swedish police. Risk assessments performed with the Swedish version of
the Brief Spousal Assault Form for the Evaluation of Risk (B-SAFER) and
police registers were used. A sample of 657 male alleged IPV perpetrators
were classified as antisocial (n = 341) or family-only (n = 316) based on their
generality of violence. The results showed that the antisocial perpetrators
were significantly younger, as well as more psychologically abusive. Antisocial
perpetrators also had significantly more present risk factors for IPV, and were
assessed with a significantly higher risk for acute and severe or deadly IPV,
1Mid Sweden University, Sundsvall, Sweden
2Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden
3Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia
Corresponding Author:
Joakim Petersson, Department of Health Sciences, Mid Sweden University, Holmgatan 10.
SE- 851 70 Sundsvall, Sweden.
Email: joakim.petersson@miun.se
640547JIVXXX10.1177/0886260516640547<italic>Journal of Interpersonal Violence</italic>Petersson et al.
research-article2016
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2 Journal of Interpersonal Violence
compared with the family-only perpetrators. The subtypes also evidenced
unique risk factors with a significant impact on elevated risk for acute and
severe or deadly such violence. Key findings in the present study concerned
the subtypes evidencing unique risk factors increasing the risk for acute and
severe or deadly IPV. Major implications of this study include the findings of
such unique “red flag” risk factors for each subtype. To prevent future IPV,
it is vital for the risk assessor to be aware of these red flags when making
decisions about risk, as well as risk management strategies.
Keywords
intimate partner violence, antisocial perpetrators, family-only perpetrators,
B-SAFER, risk factors
Introduction
Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a global issue posing serious threats to wom-
en’s health. Estimates from the World Health Organization indicate that every
third woman in the world, who has been in an intimate relationship, has expe-
rienced this type of violence (Garcia-Moreno et al., 2013). In Sweden, where
the present study was carried out, approximately 25% of women have reported
ever being victimized of IPV (National Council for Crime Prevention [NCCP],
2014). Commonly, male perpetrators of IPV in Sweden have been reported as
being between 35 and 44 years old (Belfrage & Strand, 2008; NCCP, 2002;
Strand, 2012). Furthermore, the most common IPV offenses reported in Sweden
constitute of assault and illegal threats (Belfrage & Strand, 2008; NCCP, 2009,
2014). However, an overwhelming majority of IPV remains undetected as such
violence is rarely reported to the police (NCCP, 2014).
The global extent of IPV has resulted in the awareness that perpetrators of
such violence are not a homogeneous group (Cavanaugh & Gelles, 2005;
Dixon & Browne, 2003). Thus, in recent years the interest in male IPV per-
petrator subtypes has generated a multitude of studies seeking to classify
such perpetrators (e.g., Boyle, O’Leary, Rosenbaum, & Hassett-Walker,
2008; Cunha & Gonçalves, 2013; Graña, Redondo, Muñoz-Rivas, & Cantos,
2014; Holtzworth-Munroe, Meehan, Herron, Rehman, & Stuart, 2000, 2003;
Huss & Ralston, 2008; Johnson et al., 2006; Loinaz, 2014; Serie, van Tilburg,
van Dam, & de Ruiter, 2015; Thijssen & de Ruiter, 2011; Walsh et al., 2010;
Waltz, Babcock, Jacobson, & Gottman, 2000).
Beginning with Holtzworth-Munroe and Stuart’s (1994) proposed IPV
perpetrator typology, subtypes have since mainly been categorized based on
their (a) severity and frequency of violence, (b) generality of violence, and
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Petersson et al. 3
(c) psychopathology (e.g., Cavanaugh & Gelles, 2005; Dixon & Browne,
2003). Following this procedure, three subtypes of male IPV perpetrators
have consistently been identified across such studies, namely, the family-only
perpetrator, the dysphoric/borderline perpetrator, and the generally violent/
antisocial perpetrator (e.g., Cunha & Gonçalves, 2013; Graña et al., 2014;
Huss & Ralston, 2008; Walsh et al., 2010; Waltz et al., 2000).
However, the proposed trifold-subtype typology has not always been vali-
dated in the IPV perpetrator subtype research literature. Several studies
adopting the procedure outlined by Holtzworth-Munroe and Stuart (1994)
have rather found support for a four-subtype solution (Holtzworth-Munroe
et al., 2000; Huss & Langhinrichsen-Rohling, 2006; Johnson et al., 2006;
Serie et al., 2015; Thijssen & de Ruiter, 2011). Moreover, subtyping IPV
perpetrators as proposed by Holtzworth-Munroe and Stuart (1994) has been
criticized for that psychopathology and violence are confounding variables
(Hamberger, Lohr, Bonge, & Tolin, 1996). In addition, difficulties among
clinicians to accurately categorize IPV perpetrators into pre-existing sub-
types have been reported (Langhinrichsen-Rohling, Huss, & Ramsey, 2000;
Lohr, Bonge, Witte, Hamberger, & Langhinrichsen-Rohling, 2005).
Bearing this criticism in mind, Boyle et al. (2008) successfully classified
IPV perpetrators solely according to the criterion of generality of violence.
Boyle et al. (2008) identified two subtypes, akin to the antisocial and the fam-
ily-only perpetrators, which evidenced unique characteristics. As suggested
by Holtzworth-Munroe and Stuart (1994), and described in subsequent studies
(e.g., Cunha & Gonçalves, 2013; Graña et al., 2014; Serie et al., 2015; Thijssen
& de Ruiter, 2011), family-only perpetrators were defined as those perpetra-
tors who were violent only toward their partner, whereas antisocial perpetra-
tors were defined as those perpetrators who were violent also toward other
than their partner (Boyle et al., 2008). Compared with the family-only perpe-
trators, the antisocial perpetrators have an early onset of violent and antisocial
behavior, and are following a life-course trajectory characterized by generally
violent behavior and IPV perpetration into adulthood. These differences
between the subtypes are supported by previous findings reporting antisocial
perpetrators as using more severe and frequent general violence (Huss &
Langhinrichsen-Rohling, 2006; Serie et al., 2015), as well as IPV, compared
with the family-only perpetrators (Felson & Lane, 2010; Huss &
Langhinrichsen-Rohling, 2006; Serie et al., 2015; Thijssen & de Ruiter, 2011).
In stark contrast, family-only perpetrators rarely, if ever, exert violence toward
others than their partner (Serie et al., 2015; Thijssen & de Ruiter, 2011).
Moreover, the antisocial perpetrators are more frequently engaged in psycho-
logical abuse toward their partner compared with family-only perpetrators
(Boyle et al., 2008; Cunha & Gonçalves, 2013; Graña et al., 2014).
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4 Journal of Interpersonal Violence
According to previous findings, several psychosocial differences between
antisocial and family-only perpetrators are established (Boyle et al., 2008;
Cunha & Gonçalves, 2013; Graña et al., 2014; Serie et al., 2015; Thijssen &
de Ruiter, 2011; Walsh et al., 2010). For example, the antisocial perpetrators
have more prior arrests (Cunha & Gonçalves, 2013; Graña et al., 2014; Walsh
et al., 2010), whereas the family-only perpetrators are commonly described
as otherwise socially well adjusted (Cunha & Gonçalves, 2013; Echeburúa,
Amor, & Corral, 2009), with a higher degree of positive social functioning
(Walsh et al., 2010). Moreover, the antisocial perpetrators have evidenced
more substance use problems as well as mental health problems, compared
with the family-only perpetrators who rarely demonstrate such problems
(Graña et al., 2014; Serie et al., 2015; Thijssen & de Ruiter, 2011; Walsh
et al., 2010). In terms of mental health problems, the antisocial perpetrator
have consistently across studies exhibited a greater tendency to score high on
measures of symptomatology related to antisocial personality disorder (e.g.,
Boyle et al., 2008; Graña et al., 2014; Walsh et al., 2010) and psychopathy
(Cunha & Gonçalves, 2013; Graña et al., 2014; Huss & Langhinrichsen-
Rohling, 2006).
Furthermore, studies of IPV perpetrator subtypes have demonstrated that
the characteristics of such subtypes are stable over time (Cavanaugh &
Gelles, 2005; Holtzworth-Munroe et al., 2003). For example, Holtzworth-
Munroe et al. (2003) concluded that differences, in terms of violent behavior,
between the antisocial and the family-only perpetrators continued to manifest
at a 3-year follow-up. By the time of the follow-up, the antisocial perpetrators
were more likely to persist in using more severe forms of IPV, whereas the
family-only perpetrators were more likely to use less severe forms of IPV or
completely desist from using such violence. Furthermore, Cavanaugh and
Gelles (2005) argued that due to the persistency of each subtype’s behavioral
characteristics, it is unlikely that a perpetrator will move between different
subtypes during a lifetime perspective. Consequently, the subtypes’ risk for
violent reoffending was also suggested to be stable over time. In their review
of IPV perpetrator typology studies, Cavanaugh and Gelles (2005) denoted
the antisocial perpetrators as the high-risk subtype for violence, whereas the
family-only perpetrators constituted the low-risk subtype for violence. In line
with these conclusions, Huss and Ralston (2008) demonstrated that antisocial
IPV perpetrators were significantly more likely to recidivate in IPV com-
pared with the family-only perpetrators.
The relationship between the antisocial and the family-only perpetrators
in terms of risk for future IPV has strong implications for research and prac-
tice (Cavanaugh & Gelles, 2005). As such, accurately identifying IPV perpe-
trators as either antisocial or family-only would inform the risk assessor of
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Petersson et al. 5
the perpetrator’s level of risk for reoffending, as well as guide decisions about
levels of interventions (e.g., treatment) necessary to prevent future IPV.
Furthermore, failure to address the unique characteristics triggering violent
behavior for different perpetrator subtypes would render the risk for violence
unaffected (Cavanaugh & Gelles, 2005). Therefore, advancing the research
of specific risk factors that may have greater importance for IPV perpetration
within the antisocial and the family-only subtypes (e.g., Graña et al., 2014;
Serie et al., 2015; Thijssen & de Ruiter, 2011; Walsh et al., 2010) would be
useful in order to make well-informed decisions about such risk. In addition,
identifying specific risk factors increasing the risk for IPV among the antiso-
cial and the family-only perpetrators would also facilitate tailoring risk man-
agement strategies to the perpetrator’s criminogenic needs (Boyle et al.,
2008; Cavanaugh & Gelles, 2005; Cunha & Gonçalves, 2013; Dixon &
Browne, 2003).
As such, this study sought to increase the existing knowledge of character-
istics capable of discriminating antisocial and family-only IPV perpetrators,
using a Swedish sample of male alleged IPV perpetrators reported to the
police. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to compare antisocial and
family-only male perpetrators of interpersonal violence in terms of (a) demo-
graphic and legal characteristics, (b) risk factors for violence, and (c) assessed
risk and the importance of specific risk factors for violence.
Method
Study Design
The present study was a retrospective cross-sectional file study, using a quan-
titative design. Furthermore, this study was conducted within a 7-year pro-
spective research project, evaluating the implementation and utility of
structured violence risk assessments within the Swedish national police.
More specifically, the overall aim of this project was to implement and
validate the use of structured violence risk assessments within the Swedish
national police in cases of IPV, stalking, and honor-related crimes. Moreover,
the project also examined and evaluated the risk management strategies
implemented or recommended by the police in such cases.
Material
The material in the present study consisted of IPV risk assessments per-
formed with the Brief Spousal Assault Form for the Evaluation of Risk
(B-SAFER; Kropp, Hart, & Belfrage, 2008). These assessments were carried
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6 Journal of Interpersonal Violence
out by Swedish police officers in two police counties (located in the middle
part of Sweden) between 2011 and 2014. In 2010, the police officers received
training by one of the authors of this study (S.S.) in using the B-SAFER and
subsequently began to use it routinely in all alleged IPV cases being reported.
In accordance with the B-SAFER manual (Kropp et al., 2008), interpersonal
violence was in this study defined as any actual, attempted, or threatened
physical harm, inflicted by a man or a woman with whom the victim has or
has had an intimate, sexual, relationship.
B-SAFER. The B-SAFER (Version 2; Kropp, Hart, & Belfrage, 2010) is a
structured risk assessment tool for IPV, developed in line with the structured
professional judgment (SPJ) approach. The Swedish version of the B-SAFER
(Kropp et al., 2008) was used in this study. It contains five perpetrator risk
factors (i.e., violent acts, violent threats or thoughts, escalation, violation of
court orders, and violent attitudes) and five risk factors concerning the perpe-
trator’s psychosocial adjustment (i.e., general criminality, intimate relation-
ship problems, employment problems, substance use problems, and mental
health problems). The B-SAFER also contains five victim vulnerability
factors (i.e., inconsequent behavior and/or attitude, extreme fear, inadequate
access to resources, unsafe living situation, and personal problems).
The risk and victim vulnerability factors are coded on a 3 point-scale as
present (yes), partially present (possibly), or absent (no). Information regard-
ing the risk and victim vulnerability factors should be acquired from multiple
sources, preferably from hearings with the victim and/or the alleged perpetra-
tor, as well as from crime register data. Lack of information concerning a
specific risk or victim vulnerability factor may result in its exclusion. The pres-
ence of the perpetrator risk factors and the psychosocial adjustment risk factors
are considered in the current (i.e., approximately the past month) and past
(historically) situation. However, the victim vulnerability factors should only
be considered in the current situation. Ultimately, two summary risk ratings are
made: one for acute IPV and one for severe or deadly IPV. These summary risk
ratings are estimated as low risk, moderate risk, or high risk based on the pres-
ence and relevance of risk and victim vulnerability factors (Kropp et al., 2008).
Procedure
The inclusion criteria for the B-SAFER assessments in this study were (a)
male-to-female perpetrated IPV, (b) performed between 2011 and 2014 by
Swedish police officers from the two police counties included in the research
project, (c) the risk factor “general criminality” not being omitted in the
assessment, and (d) including only the first completed assessment of those
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Petersson et al. 7
perpetrators subjected to multiple assessments. A total of 842 B-SAFER risk
assessments were identified and 657 of these assessments met the inclusion
criteria. This final sample was classified as either antisocial or family-only
based on each perpetrator’s coding of “general criminality” in the B-SAFER.
Perpetrators ever coded as generally criminal (i.e., perpetrators who had
“general criminality” coded as present or partially present in either past or
current situation) were designated as antisocial (n = 341). The remaining
perpetrators were classified as family-only (n = 316).
Besides performing the B-SAFER assessment, police officers were also
requested to provide demographic information of the victim and the alleged
perpetrator. In addition, information concerning the reported index crime was
retrieved from police registers. Data collection took place between 2013 and
2015 at the police headquarter in each county. To extract data from the assess-
ments, we constructed a separate coding sheet. Any personal information that
could identify individuals in the sample was excluded. Due to the perpetrator
focus of this study, the victim vulnerability factors were excluded from
analyses.
Statistical Analyses
Statistical comparisons were carried out with chi-square (χ2) tests for inde-
pendence, independent sample t-tests, and odds ratios (OR) with 95% confi-
dence intervals (CI). Moreover, the risk factors in the B-SAFER were
entered as predictors in direct binary logistic regression analyses with risk
for IPV as the categorical dependent variable. Analysis of inter-correlations
among the included predictors revealed no violations of the multicollinear-
ity assumption. Furthermore, all direct logistic regression analyses were pre-
ceded by hierarchical binary logistic regressions to control for the possibly
confounding effect of the demographic and legal characteristics of the
sample.
To enable OR and logistic regression analyses, the codings of the risk
factors in the B-SAFER were dichotomized as present (i.e., codings of yes or
possibly) and absent (i.e., codings of no). Furthermore, codings of current
and past situation were combined to encompass overall presence of the risk
factors. Finally, the summary risk ratings for both acute and severe or deadly
IPV were dichotomized as low risk (i.e., codings of low risk) and elevated
risk (i.e., codings of moderate or high risk). The item “general criminality” in
the B-SAFER was excluded as a predictor in the logistic regression analyses,
due to being the variable used to categorize the two subtypes.
An inspection of omitted risk factors as well as omitted summary risk
ratings in the B-SAFER assessments demonstrated that only “substance use
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8 Journal of Interpersonal Violence
problems” differed significantly between the antisocial and the family-only
perpetrators, χ2(1) = 11.1, p = .001. There were significantly fewer missing
values for antisocial perpetrators (14.7%), compared with family-only per-
petrators (25.0%) concerning “substance use problems.” Thus, omission of
risk factors as well as summary risk ratings between the two subtypes were
not considered confounding variables to the results of the statistical analy-
ses. The significance level used in this study was p < .05. Statistical analyses
were carried out using IBM SPSS (version 22.0). This study received ethical
approval by the Swedish Ethical Review Board (Dnr 2012-196-31 Ö).
Results
Demographic and Legal Characteristics
The demographic and legal characteristics of the sample are demonstrated in
Table 1. The results showed that the antisocial perpetrators were significantly
younger than the family-only perpetrators. Similarly, the victims of antisocial
perpetrators were significantly younger compared with the victims of family-
only perpetrators. Concerning immigrant background, there were signifi-
cantly fewer perpetrators, as well as victims, with an immigrant background
in the antisocial group. In addition, antisocial perpetrators were to a signifi-
cantly larger extent reported with index crimes of psychological violence,
compared with family-only perpetrators. There was no significant difference
between the antisocial and family-only perpetrators concerning reported
index crimes of physical violence.
Risk Factors for IPV Among Antisocial and Family-Only
Perpetrators
The risk factors for IPV among the antisocial and the family-only perpetra-
tors are demonstrated and compared in Table 2. Except for “violent acts,” all
perpetrator risk factors in the B-SAFER differed significantly between the
two perpetrator subtypes. The antisocial perpetrators had more often
expressed “violent threats or thoughts” and their violent and threatful behav-
ior was also more often characterized by “escalation” compared with the
family-only perpetrators. Moreover, “violation of court orders” was more
frequent among antisocial perpetrators than among the family-only perpe-
trators. The antisocial perpetrators were more than 19 times as likely as
family-only perpetrators to have violated a court order. Finally, antisocial
perpetrators also held more “violent attitudes” compared with family-only
perpetrators.
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Petersson et al. 9
In terms of the psychosocial adjustment risk factors in the B-SAFER, the anti-
social perpetrators were more frequently experiencing “intimate relationship
problems” compared with the family-only perpetrators. Furthermore, compared
with family-only perpetrators, “employment problems,” “substance use prob-
lems,” and “mental health problems” were all significantly more frequent among
the antisocial perpetrators. The antisocial perpetrators were more than 5 times as
likely as the family-only perpetrators to ever be assessed with substance use prob-
lems. Furthermore, the antisocial perpetrators were nearly 5 times as likely to ever
experience mental health problems, compared with the family-only perpetrators.
Overall Acute Risk for Violence
The results showed that the antisocial perpetrators had significantly higher
summary risk ratings for acute IPV compared with the family-only perpetra-
tors, χ2(1) = 12.40, p = .000 (OR = 1.8; 95% CI = [1.3, 2.4]). In relation to the
Table 1. Differences Regarding Demographic and Legal Characteristics Between
Antisocial and Family-Only IPV Perpetrators (N = 657) and Victims (N = 657).
Antisocial
Perpetrators
(n = 341)
M (SD)
Family-Only
Perpetrators
(n = 316)
M (SD)t-Test df p
Age perpetrator 38 (12.4) 40 (13.4) 2.49 655 .013
Age victima34 (12.2) 37 (13.1) 3.38 649 .001
n (%) n (%) χ2df p
Immigrant background
perpetrator
66 (19.4) 94 (29.8) 9.76 1 .002
Immigrant background
victim
44 (12.9) 74 (23.5) 12.32 1 .000
Index crimeb8.86 1 .003
Physical violence 252 (77.5%) 266 (86.6%) 0.38 1 .538
Psychological violence 73 (22.5%) 41 (13.4%) 8.98 1 .003
Note. IPV = intimate partner violence. Physical violence included attempted murder or
manslaughter, assault, rape, and severe violation of a woman’s integrity. Psychological violence
included illegal threats, harassment, non-physical violation of a restraining order, home
invasion, and interference in a judicial matter.
aThree victims of antisocial perpetrators and three victims of family-only perpetrators had
missing information concerning age.
bSixteen antisocial perpetrators and nine family-only perpetrators had missing information
concerning index crime.
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10 Journal of Interpersonal Violence
distribution of summary risk ratings for acute IPV among the subtypes, 182
(57.6%) family-only perpetrators and 147 (43.1%) antisocial perpetrators
were assessed as low risk. Moreover, 122 (38.6%) family-only perpetrators
and 174 (51.0%) antisocial perpetrators received assessments of elevated risk
for acute IPV. Overall, 12 (3.8%) family-only perpetrators and 20 (5.9%)
antisocial perpetrators were missing information concerning risk for acute
IPV. To examine the relative importance of the risk factors in the B-SAFER
to degree (i.e., low or elevated) of assessed risk for acute IPV among the
antisocial and family-only perpetrators, logistic regression analyses were car-
ried out (see Table 3).
Table 2. Differences Regarding Risk Factors Assessed as Present Between
Antisocial and Family-Only IPV Perpetrators, Calculated With Chi-Square Tests
(N = 657).
B-SAFER Item
Present
pOR 95% CI
Antisocial
Perpetrators (n
= 341)
Family-Only
Perpetrators
(n = 316)
na%na%
Perpetrator risk factors
1. Violent acts 340 93.2% 316 94.3% .572 0.8 [0.4, 1.6]
2. Violent threats or
thoughts
326 80.4% 300 58.7% .000 2.8 [2.0, 4.1]
3. Escalation 266 66.9% 262 48.1% .000 2.2 [1.5, 3.1]
4. Violation of court
orders
305 16.7% 296 1.0% .000 19.6 [6.0, 63.6]
5. Violent attitudes 254 81.5% 240 61.7% .000 2.7 [1.8, 4.1]
Psychosocial adjustment
6. General criminality 341 100.0% 316 0.0% —
7. Intimate relationship
problems
195 84.6% 197 55.8% .000 4.4 [2.7, 7.0]
8. Employment
problems
235 72.8% 204 42.6% .000 3.6 [2.4, 5.4]
9. Substance use
problems
291 85.6% 204 51.5% .000 5.6 [3.7, 8.5]
10. Mental health
problems
186 76.9% 174 40.8% .000 4.8 [3.1, 7.6]
Note. IPV = intimate partner violence; B-SAFER = Brief Spousal Assault Form for the Evaluation
of Risk (Kropp, Hart, & Belfrage, 2008); OR = odds ratios; CI = confidence intervals.
aNumber of assessments with complete coding.
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Petersson et al. 11
Antisocial perpetrators. The logistic regression model containing the B-SAFER
risk factors correctly classified 76.7% of the antisocial perpetrators with
either low or elevated risk for acute IPV. “Violent threats or thoughts” and
Table 3. Logistic Regression Models of the B-SAFER Risk Factors’ Predictability of
Elevated Summary Risk Ratings for Acute IPV Among Perpetrator Subtypes.
Antisocial Perpetrators (n = 86) βWald pOR 95% CI
Modela
Violent acts 2.3 3.6 .059 9.9 [0.9, 108.4]
Violent threats or thoughts 2.8 5.4 .020 15.7 [1.5, 159.8]
Escalation 2.4 9.5 .002 11.6 [2.4, 55.2]
Violation of court orders 1.6 2.5 .113 4.8 [0.7, 33.2]
Violent attitudes 0.9 1.3 .255 2.5 [0.5, 11.9]
Intimate relationship problems −1.1 1.1 .289 0.3 [0.0, 2.6]
Employment problems 0.2 0.1 .793 1.2 [0.3, 4.5]
Substance use problems 0.7 1.0 .310 2.0 [0.5, 8.0]
Mental health problems 0.2 0.1 .800 1.2 [0.3, 4.7]
Constant −7.2 2.0 .000
Family-Only Perpetrators (n = 84) βWald pOR 95% CI
Modelb
Violent acts 0.3 0.1 .821 1.3 [0.1, 17.1]
Violent threats or thoughts 0.1 0.0 .900 1.1 [0.3, 4.3]
Escalation −0.2 0.1 .733 0.8 [0.2, 3.0]
Violation of court orders 21.2 0.0 1.00
Violent attitudes 3.1 7.1 .008 21.9 [2.3, 211.1]
Intimate relationship problems 1.1 2.4 .123 2.9 [0.8, 11.1]
Employment problems 1.1 2.9 .088 3.1 [0.8, 11.4]
Substance use problems 0.9 1.4 .232 2.4 [0.6, 9.8]
Mental health problems 0.1 0.0 .898 1.1 [0.3, 4.1]
Constant −5.5 7.8 .005
Note. Summary risk ratings dichotomized as “low risk” (i.e., low risk) and “elevated risk”
(i.e., moderate or high risk). Due to missing values, two subsamples (n = 86 and n = 84) with
complete coding for summary risk ratings of acute IPV in the B-SAFER were included for
analyses. “General criminality” in the B-SAFER excluded as a predictor due to its confounding
effect of being operationalized as the perpetrator subtype classification variable. B-SAFER = Brief
Spousal Assault Form for the Evaluation of Risk (Kropp, Hart, & Belfrage, 2008); IPV = intimate
partner violence; OR = odds ratios; CI = confidence interval.
aOmnibus tests of model coefficients = χ2(9) = 34.05, p = .000. Cox & Snell R2 = .327.
Nagelkerke R2 = .436.
bOmnibus tests of model coefficients = χ2(9) = 22.90, p = .006. Cox & Snell R2 = .239.
Nagelkerke R2 = .363.
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12 Journal of Interpersonal Violence
“escalation” had a unique significant impact on risk ratings for acute IPV.
The strongest predictor for an elevated risk for acute such violence was “vio-
lent threats or thoughts.” The presence of “violent threat or thoughts”
increased the odds of antisocial perpetrators being assessed with an elevated
risk for acute IPV by 15 times.
Family-only perpetrators. The logistic regression model containing the B-SAFER
risk factors correctly classified 78.6% of the family-only perpetrators with
either low or elevated risk for acute IPV. The only risk factor with a unique
significant impact on risk ratings for acute violence was “violent attitudes.”
The presence of “violent attitudes” increased the odds of family-only perpetra-
tors being assessed with an elevated risk for acute IPV by nearly 22 times.
Overall Risk for Severe or Deadly Violence
The antisocial perpetrators had significantly higher summary risk ratings for
severe or deadly IPV compared with the family-only perpetrators, χ2(1) =
35.76, p = .000 (OR = 3.0; 95% CI = [2.1, 4.4]). In relation to the distribution
of summary risk ratings for severe or deadly such violence among the sub-
types, 248 (78.5%) family-only perpetrators and 195 (57.2%) antisocial per-
petrators were assessed as low risk. Moreover, 54 (17.1%) family-only
perpetrators and 128 (37.5%) antisocial perpetrators received assessments of
elevated risk for severe or deadly IPV. Overall, 14 (4.4%) family-only perpe-
trators and 18 (5.3%) antisocial perpetrators were missing information con-
cerning risk for severe or deadly IPV. To examine the relative importance of
the risk factors in the B-SAFER to degree (i.e., low or elevated) of assessed
risk for severe or deadly IPV among the antisocial and family-only perpetra-
tors, logistic regression analyses were carried out (see Table 4).
Antisocial perpetrators. The logistic regression model containing the B-SAFER
risk factors correctly classified 74.4% of the antisocial perpetrators with
either low or elevated risk for severe or deadly IPV. “Escalation” was the
only risk factor with a unique significant impact on risk ratings for severe or
deadly such violence. The presence of this risk factor increased the odds of
antisocial perpetrators being assessed with an elevated risk for severe or
deadly IPV by more than 10 times.
Family-only perpetrators. The logistic regression model containing the B-SAFER
risk factors correctly classified 89.0% of the family-only perpetrators with
either low or elevated risk for severe or deadly IPV. Risk factors with a unique
significant impact on risk ratings for severe or deadly such violence were “vio-
lent threats or thoughts” and “intimate relationship problems.” The presence of
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Petersson et al. 13
these risk factors increased the odds of the family-only perpetrators being
assessed with an elevated risk for severe or deadly IPV by 9 and 16 times,
respectively.
Table 4. Logistic Regression Models of the B-SAFER Risk Factors’ Predictability
of Elevated Summary Risk Ratings for Severe or Deadly IPV Among Perpetrator
Subtypes.
Antisocial Perpetrators (n = 86) βWald pOR 95% CI
Modela
Violent acts 2.5 3.6 .056 12.2 [0.9, 160.3]
Violent threats or thoughts 21.1 0.0 .999
Escalation 2.4 8.1 .004 10.7 [2.1, 54.6]
Violation of court orders 0.7 0.6 .427 2.0 [0.4, 11.0]
Violent attitudes 0.3 0.1 .743 1.3 [0.3, 6.3]
Intimate relationship problems 0.3 0.1 .789 1.3 [0.2, 8.6]
Employment problems −0.3 0.2 .689 0.8 [0.2, 2.9]
Substance use problems 1.4 3.4 .067 4.1 [0.9, 18.3]
Mental health problems −0.3 0.2 .663 0.7 [0.2, 3.1]
Constant −26.6 0.0 .000
Family-Only Perpetrators (n = 82) βWald pOR 95% CI
Modelb
Violent acts 19.4 0.0 .999
Violent threats or thoughts 2.2 4.4 .035 9.1 [1.2, 71.3]
Escalation 1.1 1.4 .230 3.1 [0.5, 20.2]
Violation of court orders −21.9 0.0 1.00
Violent attitudes 1.5 1.4 .230 4.5 [0.4, 52.3]
Intimate relationship problems 2.8 5.4 .020 17.0 [1.6, 183.5]
Employment problems −0.3 0.2 .677 0.7 [0.1, 3.8]
Substance use problems −1.8 3.1 .076 0.2 [0.0, 1.2]
Mental health problems 0.4 0.2 .703 1.4 [0.2, 8.5]
Constant −26.0 0.0 .999
Note. Summary risk ratings dichotomized as “low risk” (i.e., low risk) and “elevated risk”
(i.e., moderate or high risk). Due to missing values, two subsamples (n = 86 and n = 82)
with complete coding for summary risk ratings of severe or deadly IPV in the B-SAFER were
included for analyses. “General criminality” in the B-SAFER excluded as a predictor due to its
confounding effect of being operationalized as the perpetrator subtype classification variable.
B-SAFER = Brief Spousal Assault Form for the Evaluation of Risk (Kropp, Hart, & Belfrage,
2008); IPV = intimate partner violence; OR = odds ratios; CI = confidence interval.
aOmnibus tests of model coefficients = χ2(9) = 35.36, p = .000. Cox & Snell R2 = .337.
Nagelkerke R2 = .452.
bOmnibus tests of model coefficients = χ2(9) = 21.43, p = .011. Cox & Snell R2 = .230.
Nagelkerke R2 = .439.
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14 Journal of Interpersonal Violence
Discussion
The present study confirmed the notion of the antisocial and the family-only
IPV perpetrators as distinct subtypes, possible to identify based on the sole
criterion of generality of violence (Boyle et al., 2008). As such, the subtypes
evidenced several unique characteristics in terms of demographic and legal
variables, present risk factors, and assessed risk as well as the importance of
specific risk factors for future violence. The characteristics of the antisocial and
the family-only perpetrators found in this study are important to consider in an
IPV risk assessment and management context. Thus, evidencing different risk
factors for violence, the antisocial and the family-only perpetrators require dif-
ferent degrees and types of interventions to minimize the risk for future IPV.
Although our results showed that the antisocial and the family-only perpe-
trator subtypes did not differ regarding reported index crimes of physical vio-
lence, antisocial perpetrators were reported for more acts of psychological
violence (e.g., illegal threats). These results are consistent with previous find-
ings demonstrating the antisocial subtype as being more psychologically abu-
sive compared with the family-only perpetrator (Boyle et al., 2008; Cunha &
Gonçalves, 2013; Graña et al., 2014). Although psychological violence can
refer to a wide range of behaviors (e.g., emotional abuse, isolation, control and
coercion; Basile & Hall, 2010), illegal threats (e.g., threats of death) should be
considered one of the most severe forms of psychological violence.
The non-significant results regarding acts of physical violence as an index
crime might seem surprising, considering that the antisocial perpetrators dem-
onstrate characteristics more associated with such behavior compared with the
family-only perpetrators (Boyle et al., 2008; Cunha & Gonçalves, 2013; Graña
et al., 2014; Serie et al., 2015). However, due to family-only perpetrators use of
low-level violence (Graña et al., 2014; Serie et al., 2015), their victims might not
report their partner to the police until an act of more severe violence occurs. In
contrast, a victim of the antisocial perpetrator, well aware of his violent capabil-
ity, might report an illegal threat to the police knowing it will likely escalate into
physical violence. This explanation is supported by the results of present risk
factors for violence within each subtype (see Table 2). Violent threats or thoughts
and escalation of violent and threatful behavior were significantly more frequent
among the antisocial perpetrators, compared with the family-only perpetrators.
More importantly, and regarded as key findings of this study, there were
unique risk factors, as assessed with the B-SAFER, increasing the risk for acute
and severe or deadly IPV within each subtype. For the antisocial perpetrators,
violent threats or thoughts and escalation of violent and threatful behavior dem-
onstrated significant importance for an elevated risk for acute IPV. As the anti-
social perpetrators have shown to be significantly more likely to escalate their
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Petersson et al. 15
violent and threatful behavior, it is obvious that violence has previously been
present in the relationship. Equipped with this knowledge of the antisocial per-
petrator’s history of violent behavior, the presence of violent threats or thoughts
in combination with escalation would reasonably lead the risk assessor to
assume that imminent violence is at hand. Whether acute or not, the risk for
recurrent violence also seems probable considering that violent behavior among
antisocial IPV perpetrators has proven to be consistent over time (Boyle et al.,
2008; Holtzworth-Munroe et al., 2003). Moreover, a perpetrator’s previous use
of IPV is one of the most indicative risk factors for future such violence (Hilton
& Harris, 2005). Thus, to make well-informed decisions about risk for future
IPV, as well as suggesting adequate risk management strategies, it is imperative
to identify any escalation of the perpetrator’s violent and threatful behavior.
Regarding the family-only perpetrators in this study, the risk for acute IPV
was increased by the presence of violent attitudes. Generally, family-only
perpetrators have evidenced the least hostile and violent attitudes toward
women compared with other subtypes of IPV perpetrators (Holtzworth-
Munroe et al., 2000, 2003). As family-only perpetrators do not share the same
antisocial traits or characteristics related to violent reoffending as the antiso-
cial subtype (e.g., Cunha & Gonçalves, 2013; Graña et al., 2014; Serie et al.,
2015; Walsh et al., 2010), violent attitudes seem to be one of the most infor-
mative indications of IPV recidivism among the family-only subtype.
Violent attitudes in the B-SAFER include socio-political, religious, subcul-
tural, and personal attitudes condoning or supporting the use of IPV (e.g., patri-
archal beliefs and sexual jealousy; Kropp et al., 2008). Importantly, research
has established that personal attitudes and beliefs systematically influence an
individual’s behavior (e.g., Ajzen, 2011; Ajzen & Fishbein, 1977). Therefore, it
is not surprising that attitudes supportive of IPV have been found to be a strong
correlate for this type of violence (Eriksson & Mazerolle, 2015; Robertson &
Murachver, 2009). Noteworthy, research indicates that perpetrators within the
family-only subtype would benefit from cognition-based interventions aimed
at challenging such attitudes (Cantos & O’Leary, 2014). Moreover, it is likely
(as described under the study limitations below) that the family-only subgroup
in this study consists of several subtypes of IPV perpetrators, one being the
dysphoric/borderline subtype. Positively, research indicates that cognition-
based interventions may be especially suitable for decreasing the risk for vio-
lence among IPV perpetrators resembling the dysphoric/borderline subtype
(Cantos & O’Leary, 2014; Cavanaugh, Solomon, & Gelles, 2011).
In terms of elevated risk for severe or deadly IPV, escalation of violent and
threatful behavior had a unique impact for the antisocial perpetrators in this study.
As previously discussed, a prerequisite for being assessed with escalation of vio-
lent and threatful behavior is the previous use of violence. Furthermore, being
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16 Journal of Interpersonal Violence
classified as antisocial according to the item “general criminality” in the
B-SAFER (Kropp et al., 2008) is based on previous convictions. Thus, consider-
ing the antisocial perpetrators’ more extensive criminal background, the risk for
violence in the acute situation might be assumed by the police to be more severe
in nature. In support of this assumption, antisocial perpetrators of IPV have been
found to be more likely than family-only perpetrators to use severe forms of vio-
lence toward their partners (Serie et al., 2015; Thijssen & de Ruiter, 2011), as
well as doing so repeatedly (Holtzworth-Munroe et al., 2003). Importantly,
research in the field of femicide (i.e., the killing of one’s spouse) shows that esca-
lation of violent and threatful behavior increases the risk for deadly IPV (Garcia,
Soria, & Hurwitz, 2007; Sheehan, Murphy, Moynihan, Dudley-Fennessey, &
Stapleton, 2015). More specifically, the short period of time preceding the femi-
cide is often characterized by escalation of such behavior (e.g., Garcia et al.,
2007; Sheehan et al., 2015). Therefore, identifying a rapid escalation of a perpe-
trator’s violent or threatful behavior over time is especially important in order to
prevent acute, as well as severe or deadly, IPV.
Moreover, an elevated risk for severe or deadly IPV among the family-only
perpetrators in this study was predicted by the presence of violent threats or
thoughts and intimate relationship problems. In general, intimate relationship
problems in the B-SAFER are described as failure to maintain a stable inti-
mate relationship, for example, as indicated by serious conflicts or separations
(Kropp et al., 2008). Drawing on the IPV literature, it appears that the risk for
violence within an intimate relationship peaks in the context of a separation
(e.g., Capaldi, Knoble, Shortt, & Kim, 2012). Research has also shown that a
substantial proportion of femicide cases are preceded or triggered by an actual
or anticipated separation (Belfrage & Rying, 2004; Campbell, Glass, Sharps,
Laughon, & Bloom, 2007; Dobash, Dobash, Cavanagh, & Lewis, 2004;
Garcia et al., 2007; Sheehan et al., 2015). Reasons as to why a separation is
considered to be a trigger for severe or deadly violence has been attributed to
the perpetrator’s loss of control over their partner (e.g., Sheehan et al., 2015).
Importantly, from a risk assessment and management perspective, the risk for
severe or deadly violence in relation to a separation is immediate and not long
term (Campbell et al., 2007). Thus, to prevent such violence, high levels of
risk management interventions concentrated in time must be implemented for
victims who express a desire to separate from their violent partner.
Strengths and Limitations
The data extracted from the B-SAFER assessments in this study consisted of
both the male perpetrators’ and the female victims’ accounts of violence. This
is considered an improvement over previous studies relying solely on
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Petersson et al. 17
perpetrators’ self-reports of violence (e.g., Boyle et al., 2008). Furthermore,
this study operationalized antisocial behavior in terms of general criminality.
Although not identical, general criminality was deemed the best correspond-
ing measure of antisocial behavior in the B-SAFER, as the manual describes
this risk factor as a cursor for such behavior (Kropp et al., 2008). This proce-
dure has also been adopted in previous studies differentiating IPV perpetrator
subtypes using the B-SAFER (Serie et al., 2015; Thijssen & de Ruiter, 2011).
We are, however, aware of that this distinction between IPV perpetrators sub-
types is not a clear-cut. For example, as violence among dysphoric/borderline
perpetrators primarily is directed toward their partner (Holtzworth-Munroe &
Stuart, 1994), the majority of these perpetrators are most likely found within
the family-only subtype in the present study.
The main limitation of this study was the amount of risk factors in the
B-SAFER coded as “omitted.” Among other things, this resulted in fewer eli-
gible cases for the logistic regression analyses. Another limitation of this study
concerned mental health problems not being specified in the material. Therefore,
conclusions of specific psychiatric diagnoses cannot be drawn. Moreover, it is
important to stress that this study examined alleged perpetrators of IPV. Thus, it
is possible that perpetrators were not liable for the reported index crimes.
However, considering that the IPV reported to the Swedish police primarily con-
stitute of more severe forms of such violence (NCCP, 2012), it is likely that the
majority of the perpetrators in this study were liable for the reported crime.
In addition, the generalization of the study results is limited to male perpetra-
tors of IPV. The decision to exclude female-to-male and same-sex IPV was due
to the small or non-existing proportion of such cases in the original data set.
Twenty-eight cases (3.3%) of female-to-male IPV were identified, whereas no
cases of same-sex IPV were found. Finally, the assertion of heterogeneity among
IPV perpetrators (e.g., Dixon & Browne, 2003) was confirmed in the present
study in a Swedish sample of police-reported IPV perpetrators. However, con-
sidering that the police-reported IPV in Sweden constitute more severe forms of
such violence (NCCP, 2012), the generalizability of these results to other con-
texts is unclear and would be relevant for future research to examine.
Practical Implications
The findings in this study have direct practical utility for any criminal justice
professional (e.g., police officers) appointed with assessing the risk for IPV.
Specific risk factors, which increased the risk for acute and severe or deadly
such violence, were found for each subtype. These unique risk factors are
considered “red flags” for elevated risk of future IPV. To prevent such vio-
lence, it is vital for the risk assessor to be aware of these red flags when
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18 Journal of Interpersonal Violence
making decisions about risk, as well as risk management strategies. Thus, an
important first step in any risk assessment for IPV is to identify the perpetra-
tor subjected to the assessment as belonging to the antisocial or the family-
only subtype. This can be done in a straightforward fashion of examining the
perpetrator’s criminal record. Subsequently, the risk assessor should check
for any of the red flag risk factors associated with the subtype in question.
More importantly, although the antisocial subtype had a significantly higher
risk for acute, as well as severe or deadly, IPV, the risk factor with the stron-
gest association to femicide was found among the family-only perpetrators.
Therefore, it is important not to routinely disregard the family-only perpetra-
tors as constituting a threat for severe or deadly forms of IPV.
Conclusion
The antisocial and the family-only perpetrators evidenced several unique char-
acteristics, supporting the notion of these perpetrators as distinct subtypes. The
most important findings concerned the subtype-specific risk factors increasing
the risk for acute and severe or deadly violence. Although the family-only per-
petrators were assessed with a significantly lower risk of committing severe or
deadly violence, they evidenced risk factors strongly associated with such vio-
lence. Thus, in the context of an imminent or anticipated separation, violent
threats or thoughts uttered by perpetrators otherwise identified as “conven-
tional” and socially well adjusted must be considered as red flags, warranting
special attention from the risk assessor in order to prevent such fatal outcomes.
Acknowledgments
We would like to extend our gratitude to the police officers in the counties of
Västernorrland and Jämtland for their participation in this research.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research,
authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was funded by a grant
from the Swedish Crime Victim Compensation and Support Authority.
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and risks. Violence Against Women, 21, 269-288.
Strand, S. (2012). Using a restraining order as a protective risk management strategy to
prevent intimate partner violence. Police Practice & Research: An International
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the B-SAFER. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26, 1307-1321.
Walsh, Z., Swogger, M. T., O’Connor, B. P., Chatav Schonbrun, Y., Shea, M. T., &
Stuart, G. L. (2010). Subtypes of partner violence perpetrators among male and
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Author Biographies
Joakim Petersson received his MSc in criminology from the Mid Sweden University,
Sweden, in 2013. He is currently a PhD student at the Mid Sweden University and the
present study was part of the requirements for a PhD degree. His research interests
include intimate partner violence and risk assessment.
Susanne Strand is an associate professor of criminology at CAPS—Center for
Criminological and PsychoSocial Research at Örebro University in Sweden—and at
CFBS—Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science at Swinburne University of
Technology in Melbourne, Australia. The focus of her research is risk assessment and
risk management in three different areas: intimate partner violence, stalking, and
honor-related violence.
Heidi Selenius received her PhD in psychology from the Stockholm University in
2012. She is currently an assistant professor of criminology at the Örebro University,
Sweden. Her research interests include mental disorders and risk assessment.
at Mittuniversitetet on March 31, 2016jiv.sagepub.comDownloaded from
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