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Free Content Risk Assessment in Intimate Partner Violence: A Systematic Review of Contemporary Approaches

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Intimate partner violence (IPV) has profound and widespread health and economic implications at an individual, familial, and societal level. Violence risk assessment measures offer an evidence-informed approach to ascertain the degree of threat an abuser poses, transparent and defensible indicators for intervention and treatment decisions, and can be used to inform professionals, perpetrators, and victims alike regarding the nature and intensity of services required to help prevent IPV. This article summarizes the state of knowledge regarding risk assessment for IPV through a systematic examination of all English publications from westernized nations from 1990 to 2011. Three search engines—PsychINFO, ScienceDirect, and Social Sciences Citation Index—identified 3,361 potentially relevant articles. After dropping duplicates and removing articles that did not explicitly examine risk assessment for IPV, 39 articles remained. Several themes emerged: (a) There is a relatively small body of empirical evidence evaluating risk assessment measures in the context of IPV; (b) continued advancements are needed in the methodological rigor of the research; (c) investigations should expand cross-validation research to diverse samples (e.g., gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender [GLBT]; male victims/female perpetrators); and (d) an exciting development in IPV risk assessment research is evidence that risk assessments can serve to reduce risk levels (Belfrage et al., 2011). In terms of clinical implications, the review demonstrated considerable promise of several measures but generally reveals modest postdictive/predictive validity. Limited evidence for the superiority of IPV specific risk assessment measures over general violence risk assessment measures was revealed; however, this may largely be a reflection of study limitations. Given the challenges in comparing across studies and the heterogeneity of partner abusers, it seems premature to recommend one preferred assessment measure/approach to clinicians.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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