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An Online Resource Library on Gender-Based Violence.

Working with Young Men Who Batter

NRCDV Publications
General Material
Published Date
November, 2001

It is widely acknowledged that teen dating violence is a significant public health problem. Prevention campaigns, victim support groups and other victim-oriented programs for teenagers have been developed and evaluated. More recently, researchers and practitioners have gradually begun to focus on adolescent males who perpetrate dating and family violence. As a result, juvenile batterer intervention programs have been developed in several jurisdictions in the United States.

The profile of the adolescent male perpetrator of dating violence suggested by the literature is similar to the profile of other juvenile offenders. In short, teen boys who abuse their dating partners are more likely to have experienced child abuse or neglect (McCloskey, Figueredo & Koss, 1995; Wekerle & Wolfe, 1998; Wolfe, Werkele, Reitzel-Jaffe & Lefebvre, 1998), witnessed domestic violence (Hotaling & Sugarman, 1986), and to use alcohol or drugs (Cate, Henton, Koval, Christopher & Lloyd, 1982) than their non-abusive counterparts. In addition, several studies have established that adolescent males who abuse their dating partners are more likely to have sexist attitudes that support male domination over females (Follingstad, Rutledge, McNeil-Harlings & Polek, 1992; Henton, Cate, Koval, Lloyd & Christopher, 1983; Himelein, 1995; Koss & Dinero, 1989, Koss, Leonard, Beezley & Oros, 1985; Malamuth, Heavey, Barnes & Acker, 1995; Tontodonato & Crew, 1992) and are more likely to associate with peers that support these attitudes (Lavoie, Robitaille & Hebert, 2000; Roscoe & Callahan, 1985).

Juvenile batterer intervention programs offer an alternative or complement to incarceration, and offer possible methods to re-educate young men about their use of violence. Most juvenile batterer intervention programs utilize a psycho-educational group format and meet weekly for 1-2 hours. Intervention group activities may include discussions of healthy and unhealthy relationships, sex-role stereotyping, coping with anger or rejection, and the effect of alcohol or drug use on one's behavior, among other topics. To our knowledge, no juvenile batterer intervention program has been formally evaluated.

Programs for adolescents who batter currently face a number of challenges and dilemmas, as do all new interventions. These challenges include public recognition of teen domestic violence as a phenomenon distinct from generalized violence; a dearth of culturally appropriate interventions and research; and partnering with a juvenile justice system perceived by many to suffer from pervasive racial and class biases.

Some juvenile batterer intervention programs have attempted to integrate ecological principles into batterer intervention programs. Common to some of these approaches is the recognition that each participant serves as an important point of access to the family, community members, including peers, and institutions such as the faith community, schools, other community based agencies, the juvenile and family courts and to youth employment agencies.

While significant challenges remain, work being done to detect, deter and rehabilitate adolescent perpetrators represents an important step towards interrupting intergenerational cycles of violence and enhancing safety for battered women and girls.

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