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The Outcome Of Court-Mandated Treatment For Wife Assault: A Quasi-Experimental Evaluation

Donald G. Dutton

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This study represents an attempt to assess the effectiveness of court-mandated treatment for wife assault. A quasi-experimental design examined post-conviction recidivism rates for men convicted of wife assault. Fifty men who completed a 16-week treatment program had a 4% recidivism rate for a posttreatment period of up to 3 years. A comparable group who were not treated had a 40% recidivism rate in the same period. Hence, the “success” rate of treatment was 36% according to police records (Rosenthal, 1983). Straus Conflict Tactics Scale scores reported both by the treated men and their wives demonstrated significant posttreatment decreases from pretreatment levels. Treated husbands’ average annual use of severe violence dropped from 10.6 to 1.7 times per year (p <0.01). Eighty-four percent of wives reported no posttreatment violence. Rates of verbal aggression also dropped significantly from pretreatment levels. Comparison with CTS scores of a group of men who were arrested but not treated for wife assault (Jaffe, Wolfe, Telford, & Austin 1986) revealed significant decreases in the use of Physical Aggression subscale tactics (as reported by their wives) as a result of treatment. Interpretative difficulties with the quasi-experimental design used in this study are discussed and a randomized design with appropriate psychological assessment of subjects is recommended.