How can we utilise research to inform practice?
|Dr Elizabeth Bates|
Within the field of intimate partner violence research, there are two competing theoretical perspectives: the feminist perspective (which sees men’s violence as a problem motivated by male privilege and patriarchy, with the majority of victims being female) and the family violence perspective (which sees violence as a family problem and one where there are few gender differences in experience).
Within the research area, there is a huge amount of research that has supported the family violence approach including research that details women’s violence and controlling behaviour (e.g. Bates, Graham-Kevan & Archer, 2014), the high prevalence of bidirectional/mutual violence (e.g. Langhinrichsen-Rohling et al., 2012) and a wealth of literature that details the similarity in male and female perpetrators (e.g. Bates, Archer & Graham-Kevan, 2017).
In contrast, the research supportive of the feminist theory tends to rely on selective clinical samples (e.g. women in shelters, men in prisons), and does not utilise appropriate or rigorous methodology. Currently in practice, many interventions and programmes are heavily influenced by this feminist model. The Duluth Model utilises the Power and Control Wheel at the heart of its curriculum. Rather than being therapeutic, it is psycho-educational and works to re-educate men about their violence by asking them to confront their patriarchal values and male privilege.
Research suggests that Duluth based interventions are not effective (e.g. Babcock et al., 2003), and many academics recommend a movement away from these approaches and accreditation systems (e.g. Dixon et al., 2012). There is a need for evidence based practice to inform the development of alternative programmes. But, how can we ensure that practice is informed by current, methodologically rigorous research? What are the barriers to this research penetrating the realms of policy and practice?
Academics have a duty to go out into the environments where their research is likely to impact. For a researcher in this area, this means working with agencies, communicating findings to practitioners and engaging the public in our research findings. This is highlighted in the upcoming Research Excellence Framework (REF) where institutions and academics are credited for the impact that their research has beyond academia.
I endeavour to disseminate my findings in this way. In a recent study, myself and my colleagues sought to explore what IPV perpetrator programmes were provided within the UK (that has been published in Partner Abuse this year). We found that the majority of provision was still aimed at men who had abused their female partners. There were still strong influences of the Duluth/feminist model, often mixed with some CBT approaches too. We found that not all providers were collecting data for evaluation, or engaging with external agencies to measure effectiveness. Within this review, we as a team concluded that the Duluth model is still very influential within practice in the UK. It is something that is significantly impeding practice moving forward in terms of reducing IPV offending. We call for more evidence based practice within the area and an end to the “immunity” the model seems to have from needing to answer to any external empirical evaluation (Corvo, Dutton & Chen, 2008; p.112).
We disseminated our findings through the usual academic publication process but I also presented at several conferences including one aimed at UK forensic academic and practitioners (see photo below of me with my symposium team) and a US based conference of practitioners. It is so important for academics to share their findings beyond the academic arena, especially when many practitioners and organisations do not subscribe to the journals we often publish in. In my experience at the conference, I was given some good feedback but also, I had challenged some people’s perceptions and this may go on to have an impact in their practice in some (possibly small) way.
|Liz presenting at the 2016 BPS Division of Forensic Psychology Conference in Brighton|
Similarly, although to a different type of audience, I was invited to speak at the ManKind Initiative annual conference where I was asked to talk about the research on male victims of partner violence. To this type of audience I didn’t have to try and convince them that women could be violent, or that current practice was not supporting all victims. Instead I was able to give academic research as a source of evidence to support what many of these practitioners already knew (see photo below from the conference).
I still reflect on this and feel there is more I could do to engage with practitioners; especially those who don’t attend conferences or actively seek to keep abreast of current research developments. There is a need for a mutual dialogue – yes research should inform practice but equally researchers should engage with practitioners and understand their role and experience. With politics, funding cuts and accreditation processes, it is important to recognise that practitioners may not always have freedom to implement evidence based change. For effective reduction of partner violence, there is a need to fully tackle this research-practice nexus.
|Liz presenting at the 2016 ManKind Conference in Walsall|
Dr Elizabeth Bates is one of our senior lecturers. If you would like to contact her, you can do so on: Elizabeth.Bates@cumbria.ac.uk
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