Motivating perpetrators of domestic and family violence to engage in behaviour change: The role of fatherhood

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Policies and practices around domestic and family violence (DFV) increasingly focus on perpetrator accountability. With growing evidence that punitive responses alone have a limited deterrent effect on perpetrators, behaviour change programs play a significant role in creating accountability and improving safety for victims and children. Motivating perpetrators to engage in such programs can, however, be challenging. Few perpetrators seem to recognize the need to change for their intimate (ex)-partner due to victim-blaming attitudes and a sense that relationships are replaceable. Relationships with their children on the other hand seem to hold more value. This article explores the role of fatherhood as a motivating factor for male perpetrators to engage in relevant behaviour change programs. Based on face-to-face interviews with 18 fathers in a court-mandated intervention program, findings alert to the need for education of abusive fathers in 3 key areas: the impact of DFV on children's well-being, the impact of DFV on the parent–child relationship, and the impact of DFV-related repercussions on the parent–child relationship. Fathers' desire to have a relationship with their children suggests fatherhood offers a viable angle to motivate their engagement in interventions that address gendered forms of DFV and subsequently improve victims' and children's safety.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-104
Number of pages8
JournalChild & Family Social Work
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • behaviour change
  • domestic violence
  • fatherhood
  • perpetrator accountability

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