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The Role of Executive Function Deficits in Domestic Violence Perpetration

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Of the probable psychological or neuropsychological vulnerabilities or risks in domestic violence perpetration, deficits in executive function may be one of the least explored. This integrative review contains overviews of domestic violence theory, the literature on psychological and neuropsychological risk for violence, the literature on executive function, and the literature on coping. The neuropsychology and neuroanatomy of violence typically involves deficits in the frontal lobes and their role in cognition and impulse control and/or excessive activation of the limbic structures with their role of mediating primary emotions and drive-related behavior. Domestic violence perpetration can be understood as maladaptive and destructive coping, symptomatic of disorders of impulsivity, neuropsychological impairment, and emotional dysfunction activated within the context of intimacy or primary relationships, often (if not usually) exacerbated by substance abuse or dependency. Conceptualizing domestic violence perpetration as maladaptive coping, impaired by executive deficits, psychopathology, often worsened by substance abuse, opens up a wide range of alternative intervention strategies. Instead of assuming (often incorrectly) that a perpetrator's intentions are only patriarchal domination, careful assessment of neuropsychological vulnerability and coping abilities can lead to both a more accurate picture of risk as well as guided change strategies. Assessment of executive function can provide a framework for understanding and improving both the cognitive capabilities of perpetrators to form and use adaptive strategies as well as their abilities to manage or inhibit affective arousal to violence.
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Keywords: COPING; DOMESTIC VIOLENCE; EXECUTIVE DEFICITS; NEUROPSYCHOLOGY; PSYCHOPATHOLOGY

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2014

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