Article Text

Download PDFPDF
125 Evaluating the effectiveness of batterer intervention programs through meta-analysis: criticisms and recommendations
  1. Sonia Zawitkowski
  1. CA Centre for Addictions and Mental Health


In the domestic violence literature, meta-analyses examining the effectiveness of Batterer Intervention Programs (BIPs) have provided a decontextualized catalogue of the results of separate studies. Researchers have been distracted by a few methodological criticisms, namely attrition and study design, when selecting the best studies for comparison in these analyses and drawing their conclusions. This paper provides a closer examination of every BIP study in the most recent comprehensive meta-analysis (Eckhardt et al, 2013, The effectiveness of intervention programs for perpetrators... Partner abuse, 4 (2), 196–231) to go beyond criticisms of attrition and study design, paying attention to more substantial factors like participant characteristics and violence assessment in order to generate more informed and meaningful conclusions. The goal is to provide a richer picture to researchers and challenge the growing consensus lauding alternative BIPs as the way forward. Alternative BIPs were found to consistently use participants who were much lower-risk, casting doubt on Eckhardt’s conclusion that they are a promising substitute for traditional BIPs. Despite consistent employment of the Revised Conflict Tactics Scale, violence assessment was found to be inconsistently applied across studies, and conceptions of violence were often questionable (e.g., rape was commonly conceived as a form of physical violence like hitting). Research on domestic violence has been split into treating physical aggressors and treating abusers, but conclusions about the former are carelessly being applied to the latter. This calls into question the common claim that alternative BIPs provide an antidote to the ‘˜one-size-fits-all approach of traditional BIPs. Recommendations are made toward researchers exercising more clarity on which domain of violence is being studied and that future meta-analyses carefully consider this when interpreting results. Discussion follows with reference to research on the neuroscience of morality as a potential way to more adequately address the ‘one-size-fits-all’ problem of traditional BIPs.

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.