The Society for Social Work and Research

2013 Annual Conference

January 16-20, 2013 I Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina I San Diego, CA

Incarcerated Men's Reports of Animal Abuse in the Context of Intimate Partner Violence: The Influence of Antisocial Personality Disorder and Childhood Animal Cruelty

Friday, January 18, 2013
Grande Ballroom A, B, and C (Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina)
* noted as presenting author
Shelby McDonald, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Frank Ascione, PhD, American Humane Endowed Chair, Executive Director, Institute for Human-Animal Connection, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Purpose: Animal abuse in the context of intimate partner violence (IPV) has received increased research attention. This emerging body of literature has provided consistent empirical support for links between child maltreatment, animal abuse, and IPV, suggesting that they often occur in the same households (Faver & Strand, 2003; Simmons & Lehmann, 2007; Faver and Strand, 2008). Between one-half and three-fourths of battered women with companion animals report that their pets have been threatened or harmed by an intimate partner (Ascione, Weber, Thompson, Heath, Maruyama, & Hayashi, 2007). Recent research on animal abuse in the context of intimate partner violence (IPV) indicates that male batterers also abuse animals at significantly higher rates than men in non-abusive adult relationships (Ascione, Weber, Thompson, Heath, Maruyama, & Hayashi, 2007; Volant, Johnson, Gullone, & Coleman, 2008). The current study extends the findings of previous research by examining recent and past treatment of animals reported by a convenience sample of incarcerated men with histories of intimate partner violence perpetration.

Results: Data were gathered from 42 incarcerated men in the Utah Department of Corrections prison system, all of whom were convicted of or admitted to engaging in intimate partner violence; the men volunteered to participate in the study, and were assessed for a clinical diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder (APD). Independent sample t-tests indicated offenders with an APD diagnosis reported significantly higher mean rates of severe IPV-related behaviors on the Conflict Tactic Scale II, Self Form (CTS2; Straus, Hamby, Boney-McCoy, & Sugarman, 1996) than those without an APD diagnosis. Pearson’s chi-square tests of independence showed that an APD diagnosis was positively related to reports of childhood cruelty to animals on the Interview for Antisocial Behavior Caretaker Form (IAB; Kazdin and Esveldt-Dawson, 1986; χ2(1)=9.808, p=.002). Additionally, APD diagnosis was significantly related to threats to harm animals in the context of IPV as measured by the Reports of Animal Care and Abuse (Ascione, 2002; χ2(1)=4.19, p=.04). APD was also related to having reported harm and threats to harm animals at some point across lifetime on the Boat Inventory of Animal-Related Experiences (Boat, 1994; χ2(1)=4.806, p=.028). Finally, participants who perpetrated animal cruelty in childhood were characterized by significantly higher mean rates of psychological aggression in intimate relationships (t(38)= 2.30, p= .027), and participants reporting use of harm or killing of animals as a tactic in relationships showed higher mean rates of severe sexually coercive behaviors toward partners on the CTS2 (t(40)= -2.26, p= .031).

Conclusion: Our findings lend further support to research linking early childhood animal cruelty to subsequent delinquency, interpersonal and family violence, and APD. Given the intersection of families experiencing domestic violence with the child welfare system, the link between child maltreatment, woman battering, and animal abuse has important implications for social work researchers and practitioners in the areas of child welfare and trauma. Attention to the link between childhood animal cruelty and subsequent interpersonal violence is needed and may enhance client outcomes by improving the lens through which social workers examine clients’ ecologies.