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The utility of batterer typologies and the construct of psychopathy in domestic violence perpetrators

Matthew Todd Huss, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


A number of theoretical and empirical sources have proposed that a subgroup of domestically violent men exhibit more antisocial behavior, express more generalized violence, perpetrate more severe violence, and are more likely to abuse substances. In a parallel literature, researchers have identified a subgroup of violent criminal offenders (i.e., psychopaths) who exhibit a number of similar characteristics compared to this generally violent/antisocial subgroup of batterers. Currently, the offender literature on psychopathy describes the violence tendencies, cognitive impairments, interpersonal/affective characteristics, and treatment responsiveness of these individuals in much greater depth and breadth than the domestic violence literature. This literature formed the basis of the hypotheses for the current study. This study proposed that domestic violence perpetrators in a community sample could be categorized into distinct subgroups and that a particular subgroup of batterers would exhibit sufficient psychopathic characteristics to be clinically meaningful. Moreover, it was hypothesized that psychopathic batterers suffer from cognitive deficits that lead them to process contextual information differently than nonpsychopathic batterers. In order to assess these hypotheses a sample of 122 men who were referred for treatment as a result of partner assault were obtained from two local treatment agencies. Participants were interviewed in order to gather a relevant social, familial, educational, criminal, and substance abuse history and administered several psychometric measures including the Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL:SV). Results lent support to the batterer typology theorized by Holtzworth-Munroe and Stuart (1994). However, despite the presence of a more antisocial subgroup, there was not a consistent distinction for psychopathy across the dependent variables. Results indicate that subclinical levels of psychopathy provide marginal utility in a community sample of domestic violence perpetrators. Results also suggest possible differences between some the predictive mechanisms associated with domestic violence and generalized violence within a community sample of batterers that may provide for fertile ground for future research. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Clinical|Sociology, Criminology and Penology

Recommended Citation

Huss, Matthew Todd, "The utility of batterer typologies and the construct of psychopathy in domestic violence perpetrators" (2000). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI9976996.