Academic journal article Social Work Research

Psychological and Demographic Predictors of Attrition among Batterers Court Ordered into Treatment

Academic journal article Social Work Research

Psychological and Demographic Predictors of Attrition among Batterers Court Ordered into Treatment

Article excerpt

The study investigated differences in demographic and psychological variables between treatment completers and dropouts among abusive men entering a court-mandated treatment program. An additional goal was to create a predictive model that would correctly identify men at greatest risk of dropping out of the program. The authors used a secondary analysis of 137 men randomly selected from a larger pool of 784 men. Analysis indicated that very few of the demographic and psychological variables differentiated between treatment completers and dropouts. However, a logistic regression model was developed that correctly predicted treatment completion for 75 percent of the sample. Implications of the findings for improving retention rates among men amending court-mandated batterer treatment programs are discussed.

Key words: attrition; batterers; court-ordered treatment


Recently, a growing body of literature has focused on characteristics of men who batter and on the intervention programs directed at changing their violent behaviors. Reviews of the batterer intervention program literature consistently have indicated that 60 percent to 80 percent of male batterers who complete treatment are no longer physically abusive toward their partners at the conclusion of the treatment program (Eisikovits & Edleson, 1989; Gondolf, 1997; Holtzworth-Munroe, Bates, Smultzer, & Sandin, 1997; Rosenfeld, 1992; Tolman & Bennett, 1990). However, as all of these reviews indicate, there are numerous methodological limitations that detract from these positive, single-site, program evaluations (for an excellent discussion, see Rosenfeld). Perhaps the most persistent and intractable problem confounding the evaluation of these intervention programs is the fact that attrition rates for batterer treatment programs are quite high.

Investigations into attrition rates among batterer intervention programs have discovered that approximately 40 percent to 60 percent of men attending the first session of treatment actually fail to complete treatment (DeMaris, 1989; Edleson & Syers, 1991; Gondolf, 1997; Pirog-Good & Stets, 1986). When evaluated in terms of treatment failure after initial contact with the program, one study discovered that 93 percent of the men referred to the program never actually completed it (Gondolf & Fisher, 1988). Clearly, the most troubling aspect of these high attrition rates is the fact that the men who drop out of treatment remain at increased risk of abusing their partners (Hamberger & Hastings, 1988). Consequently, there has been an attempt to identify differences between treatment completers and dropouts, with the goal of enhancing retention rates.

In the effort to understand why some men fail to complete treatment, researchers have compared characteristics of treatment completers with dropouts. Unfortunately, the picture that emerges from this literature is unclear. For example, there is some literature that suggests that demographic variables (that is, age, employment status, educational level, alcohol use, income, previous criminal history, and relationship status) can distinguish between treatment completers and dropouts, with dropouts tending to be younger, unemployed, less educated, more likely to abuse alcohol, have a previous criminal history, and be either single or separated (Cadsky, Hanson, Crawford, & Lalonde, 1996; DeMaris, 1989; Grusznski & Carrillo, 1988; Hamberger & Hastings, 1989). Other studies, however, have discovered either inconsistent or nonsignificant differences between treatment completers and dropouts on these variables (Chen, Bersani, Myers, & Denton, 1989; DeHart, Kennerly, Burke, & Follingstad, 1999; DeMaris; Grusznski & Carrillo; Hamberger & Hastings, 1986, 1989, 1991; Hamberger, Lohr, & Gottlieb, 2000). For example, in a recent study of 61 men enrolled in a batterer treatment program, DeHart et al. …

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