Individuals – Dunford (1992)

Study Reference:

Dunford, F. W. (1992). The measurement of recidivism in cases of spouse assault. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, 83, 120-136.

See also

Dunford, F. W., Huizinga, D., & Elliott, D. S. (1990). The role of arrest in domestic assault: The Omaha police experiment. Criminology28(2), 183-206.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Individuals; Focused; Reactive; Very rigorous; No evidence of an effect

What police practice or strategy was examined?

The study reexamined the Omaha replication of the Minneapolis Experiment on domestic violence, using an additional six months of follow up data. In the original Omaha study, eligible offenders with probable cause for an arrest were randomly assigned to one of three treatments: “mediation” or restoring order between offender and victim; separation, which involved sending one party away; and arrest. The purpose of the study was to examine whether arrest would reduce recidivism in domestic violence cases relative to mediation or separation using a longer follow-up period.

How was the intervention evaluated?

330 eligible cases were randomly assigned to one of the three conditions. Official rearrest and complaint data and victim self reports were collected to measure subsequent assault. The mediation and separation treatments were collapsed into an informal treatment category to be compared with arrests. In the original study, the intervention effect was reported based on a six-month follow up out of a total of 12 months. This study reports the effects with an additional six-month follow-up.

What were the key findings?

Extending the period of follow-up did not alter the results of the original study. Cases with informal treatment were found to have lower arrest recidivism and arrest was no more effective at 12 months in reducing recidivism relative to the other treatments than it was at 6 months.

The study also revealed that the previous assumption about the follow-up period for domestic violence is not valid. It was assumed that if a perpetrator of spouse assault is going to recidivate, he or she will do so within six months of the presenting offense. However, results of the study suggested that the number of people who recidivated during the second six-month period was from 70% to 80% of that during the first six months, and they tended to be different people from those failing in the first period. Using six months as the follow-up period will produce misleading results.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The authors argue that formal response to domestic violence case is no more effective in reducing recidivism compared to informal treatments. Additionally, limiting to six months the period for measuring spouse-abuse recidivism has resulted in underestimates of the extent to which such abuse continues and has thus fostered spurious or misleading policy recommendations.

Where can I find more information about this intervention, similar types of intervention, or related studies?