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An Ecological Analysis of Batterer Intervention Program Standards (From Domestic Violence Offenders: Current Interventions, Research, and Implications for Policies and Standards, P 221-233, 2001, Robert A. Geffner and Alan Rosenbaum, eds. -- See NCJ-197536)

NCJ Number
Richard M. Tolman
Date Published
13 pages
After reviewing the arguments for and against the current standards for batterer treatment programs, this article argues that the extant empirical research on batterer intervention is, at best, a limited source of knowledge for setting standards, but an ecological framework for viewing domestic violence can be useful in the debate about standards.
A primary function of standards for batterer treatment programs is to promote safety and a coordinated response to domestic violence. Austin and Dankwort (1999) report that 81 percent of standards identify victim safety as an essential focus of batterer programs, and 92 percent identify a coordinated community effort as necessary to end domestic violence. Another major purpose of standards is to promote accountability of programs. Overall, standards can be viewed as an attempt to legitimize the specialized knowledge and skills required to provide an effective intervention for abusers. Those who oppose the development of current standards for batterer programs argue that the research literature has not developed to the point that there is a consensus among researchers regarding the effectiveness of various intervention strategies and techniques. Further, standards, even if they reflect the consensus of researchers, can only be effective if constantly monitored to ensure compliance, which is a costly enterprise. This article advises that an ecological analysis can be helpful in the debate about standards for batterer program. The ecological framework focuses on the understanding of human behavior at multiple levels of human ecology. Bronfenbrenner originally described four levels of ecology that influence human behavior: the microsystem (interactions in a particular setting in which a person directly engages and the subjective meanings assigned to them); the mesosystem (linkages between microsystems in a person's social environment); the exosystem (interactions in which others engage that have some type of impact on an individual); and the macrosystem (patterns at a cultural, subcultural, or social class level that dictate consistencies in similar settings). This article discusses the ecology of domestic violence under this ecological perspective and how standards might be useful in each of these areas. The ecological framework can also generate questions for further examination. This article concludes that the debate about standards is healthy if it pushes policymakers to be clearer about assumptions, leads to proceduralization of best practices, and forces the formation of powerful partnerships to end domestic violence. 33 references