Characteristics of men in treatment at Alternative to Violence (ATV) for violent behavior within a close relationship.

Askeland, I. R., Lømo, B., Strandmoen, J. F., Heir, T., & Tjersland, O. A. (2012). Kjennetegn hos menn som har oppsøkt Alternativ til Vold (ATV) for vold i nære relasjoner [Characteristics of men in treatment at Alternative to Violence (ATV) for violent behavior within a close relationship.] Norwegian only.

This report is based on the first data from a process and outcome study of men in treatment for violent behavior at Alternative to Violence (ATV). The data were obtained in
the first consultation. The purpose of this report is to provide a representation of the
characteristics of this group of men before attending treatment. The study is a collaboration between ATV and the Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress
Studies, NKVTS.

All men who contacted ATV in the period January 2010 – July 2011 were asked to
participate in the research project. Five ATV offices participated in the study (Drammen,
Oslo, Kristiansand, Vestfold and Rogaland). 192 men consented and were interviewed
in relation to demographic characteristics, violence, mental health, substance abuse,
potentially traumatic events, personality and expectations for therapy. The men’s partners
were interviewed, when both agreed to this. 92 partners were interviewed.

The assessment interview was conducted by two researchers with clinical expertise in
violence and treatment, and consisted of both structured clinical interview and self-report
questionnaires. The assessment instruments used were the Violence, Alcohol
and Substance (VAS), Traumatic Experiences Checklist (TEC), the Mini International
Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI 6.0.0), and Big Five 44-item Inventory (BFI44).

The sample consisted primarily of ethnic Norwegian males in their 30s, three in four had children and the majority had contact with their children. About seven out of ten
were working or studying, and the majority had regular contact with friends and family.

The results showed that violence was extensive and had severe consequences. Nearly
eight in ten men reported at least one form of violence against a partner. About
the same percentage reported psychological violence against a partner during the
previous year. About two in ten men reported at least one form of physical violence
against children during the previous year, while about four out of ten reported similar
violence against others outside the family. The men’s partners reported a higher incidence
and more severe consequences of violence than the men. Over half of the men
had been in contact with the police due to use of violence against either their partner,
children or others.

The majority of the men reported psychological problems. Seven out of ten men met
the criteria for at least one diagnosis, measured by MINI. Depression, antisocial personality disorder and substance abuse were the most frequently occurring diagnosis.
Four out of ten scored in varying degrees of suicidality, and for one of ten, this was of
severe character. The assessment of potentially traumatic experiences by TEC showed
that the majority of the men had several such experiences. Half of the men had experienced emotional neglect, seven out of ten had experienced emotional abuse and almost eight out of ten had experienced physical abuse from parents, other relatives and/or others. Two out of ten had been sexually abused. A majority of the men had been in therapy either as children or adults.

Regarding personality, measured by the BFI44, the men scored higher on neuroticism
and openness, and lower in empathy than what was found in a representative Norwegian
sample from the general population.

The results show the importance of identifying various aspects of the men’s life. We
identified a high incidence of severe violence, psychological problems, high occurrence
of potentially traumatic incidents and high frequencies of aversive childhood experiences.
It seems important to identify and recognize the complex needs that exist within
this group, and organize therapeutic interventions accordingly. The severity of the
violence makes it evident that partners and children affected by the violence, must be
assured help.

The Researchers