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A new large-scale population-based study led by researchers from the University of Oxford investigated the link between nine major mental disorders and intimate partner violence perpetrated by men towards women.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is the most common form of violence suffered by women. Worldwide, around 30% of women have experienced physical or sexual violence by their current or previous intimate partner. The UK has a similar rate of 27%. To date, many Intervention and Prevention Programmes targeting perpetrators of IPV typically have limited effectiveness, probably due to a lack of modifiable factors in those programmes.

Most of the studied mental disorders (except for autism), which include schizophrenia-spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, alcohol and drug use disorders, ADHD and personality disorders are associated with an increased risk of IPV perpetration by men towards women. The increased risk was between two and seven times compared with the general population and from two to four-fold compared with the unaffected siblings of men with a mental disorder. The highest absolute rates and relative risks for IPV perpetration (around 1 in 5) were found in men with substance use disorders.

 

This new study is likely the largest epidemiological study of IPV perpetrators to-date and the first to use sibling comparisons. Prioritising the development of services to assess IPV perpetration among men with substance use disorders may help to reduce the risk of IPV against women. - Rongqin Yu, PhD, Department of Psychiatry.

 

Importantly, the results for autism and schizophrenia-spectrum disorders were different. Autism was associated with a lower risk of IPV both in the general population comparisons and sibling comparisons. However, schizophrenia-spectrum disorders were associated with a higher risk of IPV in the general population comparisons but not when they were compared to their full siblings. These findings underscore the importance of adjustment for familial factors. This study also highlights the need for examining and mitigating risk factors in perpetrators as a way to stop IPV against women.

 

 

The team modelled the reduction in the prevalence of IPV perpetration against women if certain mental disorders were treated. For example, it is estimated that around 20% of IPV perpetrated by men towards women could be prevented if high risk groups such as individuals with alcohol and drug use disorders were treated.  

The study used Swedish nationwide registries and identified men from nine diagnostic groups over 1998-2013, with sample sizes ranging from 9,529 with autism to 88,182 with depressive disorder. The researchers compared risk of arrest for IPV perpetration in men with a diagnosis of mental disorder with their unaffected full siblings and 20 age- and gender-matched general population controls. 

To read the full study, Mental disorders and intimate partner violence perpetrated by men towards women: A Swedish population-based longitudinal study

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