The role of executive dysfunction and substance use in intimate partner violent offenders.

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Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a worldwide public health problem. Treatment programs for perpetrators of IPV have limited success, suggesting a need to investigate potential predictors of IPV in hopes to develop more effective treatment. Biological and neuropsychological correlates have gained recent attention in explaining IPV perpetration, however, few studies have specifically focused on executive cognitive functioning (ECF). Because deficits in ECF are linked to general aggression and violence, it follows that ECF impairment may also be associated with IPV perpetration. Alcohol and drug use also have been consistently linked to aggression and IPV, as well as deficits in ECF, and substance use has been implicated as a potential causal factor in IPV-related neuropsychological deficits. The present study was the first to comprehensively measure the relationship between substance use, including alcohol use, and ECF in this population. The study compared scores on performance-based and behavior ratings of ECF between groups of IPV offenders classified by their level of substance use (high vs. low). The sample consisted of 35 participants detained in a county jail for family violence offenses, with 21 participants assigned to the high substance use group and 14 participants classified into the low substance use group. ECF scores were analyzed using one-way multiple analyses of covariance (MANCOVAs) with age entered as a covariate. Results indicated no significant differences between groups on performance-based or behavioral ratings of ECF. However, lack of findings was likely due to limited power. A between-group difference on the performance-based measure of decision making trended towards significance (F (1, 32) = 7.17, p = .012, ղ2 = .183), suggesting promising results for future studies with larger samples. Relationships between performance-based and behavior ratings of ECF were also assessed; performance-based and behavior ratings shared moderate relationships, suggesting the utility of both types of assessment for comprehensive ECF measurement. Further, multiple regression analyses indicated that ECF was not associated with physical IPV perpetration independent of substance use. Findings suggest that substance use plays an important role in the relationship between ECF and IPV.

Intimate partner violence. Executive cognitive functioning. Substance use.