Transforming families; improving safety; minimising risk: how research has changed practice in interventions and assessment for intimate partner violence (IPV).

Submitting Institution

Glasgow Caledonian University

Unit of Assessment

Social Work and Social Policy

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Medical and Health Sciences: Public Health and Health Services
Studies In Human Society: Criminology, Social Work

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Summary of the impact

A research team at GCU, led by Professor Liz Gilchrist, exploring aspects of intimate partner violence (IPV) has had a significant impact on IPV practice. The research linked two traditionally conflicting approaches to IPV: the victim/survivor based research emphasising gender in IPV, and the forensic psychology approach focussing on characteristics and criminogenic need in offenders.This has significantly changed practice nationally and internationally, including leading to the development of parenting interventions for men convicted of IPV in Scotland; restructured interventions for victims and offenders in New Zealand and the assessment of dynamic factors for those accessing IPV programmes in Scotland.

Underpinning research

Gilchrist and colleagues have built on earlier research (Gilchrist et al, 2003) which identified characteristics of IPV offenders and victim/survivors across the UK, and confirmed previous US findings of the existence of sub-groups of IPV offender, with different patterns of offending, and potential risk. The GCU work (2007 - ongoing) has explored mechanisms, such as implicit thinking (Gilchrist, 2009; Weldon & Gilchrist, 2012) and alcohol (McMurran & Gilchrist, 2008; Gilchrist & Ireland, 2013) which appear to underpin IPV offending; explored a) factors contributing to risk, such as coercive sexual behaviours (Morgan & Gilchrist, 2010; Gilchrist, 2012) and b) new interventions, particularly collaborative input and parenting interventions for IPV (Gilchrist &Landale, 2012).

Uniquely, this research has linked two traditionally competing bodies of knowledge around IPV: victim based knowledge which emphasises the role of gender and IPV and which leads to support for victims and demands for accountability and monitoring of offenders, but which has not been successful in informing effective interventions to reduce risk in offenders, and the forensic psychology knowledge about perpetrator characteristics and criminogenic need which led to generic anger and violence focussed interventions which have limited success and which have ignored the preponderance of male perpetrators, and the specific risk markers for different groupings of IPV and which have been viewed as limiting culpability in offenders and as being less sensitive to victim experiences.

The research has provided new insights into possible targets for change in interventions with IPV offenders and suggested approaches to assessing risk relevant change.

Linked work (Gilchrist and Dalton, 2010; Langlands, Ward & Gilchrist, 2009 and Gilchrist & Landale; 2013) has explored the potential of new interventions for IPV offenders. Initial work considered the benefits of a 'strengths-based' intervention which aimed to work with perpetrators own goals, within the broad 'good lives framework, suggesting that this would be better at engaging men in treatment and more effective in promoting desistance than the previous directly confrontational, more psycho-educational than therapeutic inputs that have routinely been offered (Gilchrist & Dalton, 2010). Initial results suggested that attrition from this programme was lessthan meta-analyses in this area would suggest.

More recent work by Gilchrist & Landale (2013) has focussed on the benefits of a parenting intervention for IPV perpetrators. The work has initially focussed on the co-ordination of services required to deliver such an intervention. Early results identify clashes in service ideology and safety concerns as key areas to be addressed when implementing the types of interventions. Also, the benefits of joint training of professionals from traditionally separated services, e.g. victim advocacy and criminal justice social work and enhanced communication is highlighted. Work by Gilchrist & Ireland (2013) founded on initial theoretical work by McMurran & Gilchrist (2008) has focussed on the role of alcohol in IPV. The research identifying peaks associated with significant cultural events, in particular annual festivities and significant football matches has challenged traditional views of alcohol as merely a convenient excuse for abuse, and has highlighted the importance of recording in IPV practice.

References to the research

  1. Gilchrist, E (2012) Domestic Abuse in the UK: Why We Need to Understand Perpetrators, in, Nancy Lombard and Lesley McMillan (Eds) Violence Against Women: Current Theory and Practice in Domestic Abuse, Sexual Violence and Exploitation, Chapter 9: 159-176 Jessica Kingsley: London
  2. Weldon, S & Gilchrist, E (2012) Implicit Theories in Intimate Partner Violence Offenders Journal of Family Violence 27: 761-772 3.
  4. Morgan W & Gilchrist, E (2010) Risk assessment with intimate partner sex offenders Journal of Sexual Aggression, 16 (3): 361-372
  6. Langlands, R., Ward, T., & Gilchrist, E. (2009). Applying the Good Lives Model to Male Perpetrators of Domestic Violence Behavior Change, 26 (2): 113-129, Australian Academic Press, Bowen Hills
  8. Gilchrist, E (2009)Implicit thinking about implicit theories in intimate partner violence,Psychology, Crime & Law,15 (2):131-145
  10. Gilchrist, E (2008) Implicit thinking about intimate partner violence In: Scottish Journal of Criminal Justice Studies, 14: 46-52,

Details of the impact

Research by Gilchrist (2009) has been used to identify changeable beliefs within the IPV population. This led to the development of a new approach to pre and post-group assessment for the Caledonian System community programme for IPV (Caledonian System Manuals, 2010) directly changing social work practice in Scotland. This research has also been presented as guidance for the Risk Management Authority, informing all guidance in IPV assessment in Scotland(January 2011)1

Gilchrist and Dalton's research led to a grant of £150,000 from the Scottish Government for the team at GCU to implement and evaluate a randomised control trial of a parenting intervention for men convicted of IPV related offences (the Alba Project, (2012 - ongoing) ). GCU lead the project and have linked Criminal Justice Social Work, women's advocacy services (ASSIST), Police Scotland and Glasgow East Women's Aid. Staff from across professions has been trained in Triple P, which is currently being delivered by CJSW and ASSIST. This GCU research into criminogenic need and interventions for IPV offenders has directly led to a change in practice in criminal justice across Strathclyde.

Research by Weldon & Gilchrist (2012) has changed the response to IPV offenders in Scottish Prisons. The recent review by Miller, 2012,2 commissioned by the SPS Steering group on Domestic Violence focussed on the prevalence of the implicit theories identified by Gilchrist (2009) and Weldon & Gilchrist (2012) in this population. This review has changed the recording of IPV offences within SPS and is currently informing planning of intervention and assessment to address IPV within Scottish prisons.

Based on this theoretical, empirical and practice knowledge, Professor Gilchrist was invited to New Zealand as a consultant for Corrections New Zealand to inform: the content of prison programmes for IPV; how to link services to address IPV across social work, probation, victim support and advocacy services; and assessment of offenders and victims in prison and in the community to ensure appropriate targeting of programmes, and effective management of victim safety. The content of prison programmes and the structure of community services are based on GCU research on implicit thinking and effective interventions for IPV. This research has changed IPV practice in New Zealand (letter from Corrections New Zealand 2013 in support).
The Scottish Judicial Studies committee developed a CPD training DVD of courtroom scenes involving IPV offenders with input from experts to train judges in IPV (Jan - May 2011)
3. Professor Gilchrist linked research from GCU which identified thinking styles and victim experiences associated with IPV offending to key decision stages in the court process to inform judges. Additionally Gilchrist has regularly provided face-to-face input at the linked training events reinforcing research evidence in relation to risk, and how this might be translated into legal practice (JSC CPD on domestic abuse; Oct 2011, Nov 2011, Oct 2012, Nov 2012). This work has shaped judicial decision making in court, with judges commenting that they now regularly use special bail conditions to manage risk even in cases where there are no previous convictions, based on the knowledge they have of risk drawn from the DVD and specific training.
Research focussed on the role of sexual abuse within IPV offences (Morgan & Gilchrist, 2010) has led to GCU being commissioned by the Risk Management Authority to identify a process of risk assessment for the Police in Scotland for the management of MAPPA1 sexual offenders (Scan for Risk; May 2012).The GCU team led a seminar for senior public protection police officers in November 2012, and delivered training on defensible decision making to senior police officers at Tulliallan Police Training College in October 2012.The research at GCU has had a direct impact on the police approach to risk assessment via training of senior staff and has led to wider practice development changes with roll out of new processes across a number of areas in the new Police Scotland expected in 2013.
The GCU research into specific factors underpinning IPV (Morgan & Gilchrist, 2010) was presented at an event at the Scottish Parliament, which secured the attendance of 8 MSPs, including the Minster for Justice (The Psychologist, 2012). GCU is now involved in advising the Division of Occupational Psychology and the Division of Neuropsychology as to how to engage with government, having implemented a change in practice in academic/policy engagement in Scotland.

Sources to corroborate the impact

International impact

Individual users/beneficiaries

Scottish Prison Service Steering Group on Domestic Abuse

Chair of Judicial Studies Committee

Acting Chief Constable Strathclyde Police

Deputy Chair of ACPOS

Chief Executive RMA

Head of Rehabilitation, Department of Corrections New Zealand.

Factual statements

Letter/Email from Scottish Government

Letter from Judicial Studies Committee, Scotland

Letter from Head of Offender Rehabilitation, New Zealand Department of Corrections

Letter from Acting Chief Constable Strathclyde Police

Emails from the Caledonian System

Emails from practitioners re IPV training