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Perpetrators’ perspectives on family violence: What happens, and why, during a family violence event?

Family violence (FV) is a significant social issue in many countries around the world, and New Zealand is no exception. In recent years, significant advances have been made in the development of FV theories and in our empirical understanding of risk factors implicated in these theories. However, from both a theoretical and empirical standpoint, we continue to have a limited understanding of what happens, and why it happens, during a FV event (FVE). The current research developed and tested a descriptive theoretical model of a FVE from the perpetrator’s perspective. Event narratives were gathered from 14 men and 13 women completing community-based FV perpetrator treatment programmes. All narratives were gathered during individual semi-structured interviews and were systematically analysed using grounded theory methods (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). The resulting event process model of FV (FVEPM) contains four sections arranged temporally from the most distal to the most proximal factors in relation to the FVE described: Background factors (Section 1), Event build-up (Section 2), Event (Section 3), and Post-event (Section 4; Chapter 5). The FVEPM provides a descriptive temporal outline of a FVE, including its cognitive, behavioural, social, and motivational components. It highlights the dynamic nature of FVEs, and the salient role of situational and interpersonal factors in contributing to FV perpetration. Further analysis of the FVEPM revealed three distinct pathways to FV: Conflict escalation (Pathway 1), Automated violence (Pathway 2), and Compliance (Pathway 3; Chapter 6). Each pathway describes distinct patterns of cognition, affect, motivation, and behaviour that characterise a FVE. Next, the generalisability of the FVEPM and its pathways was tested with an incarcerated sample of eight men with extensive histories of violent and other offending (Chapter 7). Overall, participants’ event narratives were consistent with the phenomena and processes set out in the FVEPM. However, event narratives were better represented by splitting Pathway 1 into two subtypes, and no event narratives were assigned to Pathway 3. Finally, drawing on Section 3 (‘Event’) of the FVEPM, a conceptual framework of motives for FV was proposed (Chapter 8). The proposed framework advances existing conceptual models by differentiating motives from the contextual factors that may influence their selection, and by providing an organising framework from which to consider multiple and changing motives during a FVE. The current research represents a novel attempt to develop an inclusive theoretical model of a FVE, and to examine distinct pathways to FV perpetration. Theoretical and clinical implications of the current research are discussed, including the need to consider how dyadic interaction patterns may contribute to FV perpetration and the role of perpetrators’ dissociative experiences during a FVE. Finally, limitations of the current research and suggestions for future research are proposed.
Type of thesis
Stairmand, M. (2020). Perpetrators’ perspectives on family violence: What happens, and why, during a family violence event? (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/13550
The University of Waikato
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