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Intimate Partner Violence and Intimate Partner Homicide: Development of a Typology Based on Psychosocial Characteristics

Vignola-Lévesque, C., & Léveillée, S. (2021).

Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 1 – 25.

Expanded Abstract:

Studies on intimate partner violence (IPV) have put forth several different profiles of perpetrators of IPV based on the severity of the violence and the presence of psychopathology. The objective of this study was to develop a typology of perpetrators of IPV and intimate partner homicide (IPH) according to their criminological, situational, and psychological characteristics, such as alexithymia.

Alexithymia is when a person has difficulty identifying and describing emotions and in distinguishing feelings from bodily sensations of emotional arousal. Said another way, alexithymia is a personality trait characterized by the subclinical inability to identify and describe emotions experienced.

Several studies have focused on perpetrators of IPV (e.g., Capaldi et al., 2012; Schumacher et al., 2001) and IPH (Campbell et al., 2007) and have identified several of the characteristics that appear to increase the probability of an individual committing violence within the couple. These factors focus mainly on sociodemographic variables, situational variables, and the characteristics of the violence committed (Aldridge & Browne, 2003; Capaldi et al., 2012). For example, lower age, unemployment, and low education have been identified as risk factors for IPV (Capaldi et al., 2012), while studies report that the majority of IPH perpetrators tend to be older, employed, and have medium socio-economic status (Dobash et al., 2009).

Life circumstances and contextual factors are also documented as risk factors in the literature.  For example, the period immediately preceding or following the breakup is when the risk of homicide is at its highest (Campbell et al., 2007; Léveillée & Lefebvre, 2011). A breakup leads to emotional distress and a feeling of rejection for men who already have psychological difficulties (Drouin et al., 2012; Léveillée et al., 2017). Violent behaviors are therefore used to maintain control over the partner (Kelly & Johnson, 2008). Certain individual characteristics are associated with the risk of violence in the context of a marital separation including the presence of a criminal history (Piquero et al., 2013).

This study revealed four profiles for offenders: each profile has been named according to the main psychosocial issues that characterize the functioning and psychosocial issues of perpetrators of IPV, including:

1.     the homicidal abandoned partner;

2.     the generally angry/aggressive partner;

3.     the controlling violent partner; and

4.     the unstable dependent partner

(The expanded abstract is excerpted and adapted from the article cited above)