Director of Public Health Annual Report 2021: Domestic Violence and Abuse

Last updated: 24 August 2021 Download the report (pdf, 857.0 KB)

What are the risk factors for becoming a perpetrator?

Good physical and mental health and a sense of wellbeing are protective against perpetrating abuse.

Certain factors are associated with increased risk of perpetrating domestic abuse. They may not cause the abuse to happen, but they contribute. Risk factors can be cumulative, and combine to increase the risk of committing domestic abuse.

Greater risk is associated with low self-esteem, hostility towards women, and the need for dominance and control. A history of depression and suicide attempts have also been linked to increased risk of becoming a perpetrator. Where economic stress, marital conflict or jealousy occurs, domestic abuse is more likely. Additionally, evidence suggests that communities with lower social cohesion, lower bystander intervention, and lower social capital have higher rates of intimate partner violence.

In contrast, protective factors can reduce the influence of risk factors. Good physical and mental health and a sense of wellbeing are protective against perpetrating abuse. Having a stable home and family life are also protective. Communities with greater social cohesion, good access to healthcare and knowledge and training of bystander interventions have reduced risk of domestic abuse. Social norms that discourage violence and support gender equality, and public policy that aims to level up health inequalities are also protective.

A recent study with domestic abuse practitioners showed common risk and protective factors associated with becoming a perpetrator. For example, normalising abusive behaviour was a risk factor. Protective factors included having meaningful support networks. Understanding these multilevel factors can help identify various opportunities for prevention. For example, improving access to stable housing and promoting bystander interventions to reduce the risk of domestic abuse.

“It was useful – I learnt how to put myself in my partner’s shoes and to see things from her perspective."

“I wouldn’t have done this unless I’d been forced to. There should be more help and advice like this to help men before they get into a criminal situation like I did.”

– Perpetrators of domestic abuse in Buckinghamshire reflecting in their attendance at a positive relationships programme