IPT Book Reviews

Title: The Effects of Intimate Partner Violence on Children   Negative Review
Editors: Robert A. Geffner, Robyn Spurling Igelman, and Jennifer Zellner
Publisher: Haworth Maltreatment and Trauma Press, 2003

The Haworth Maltreatment and Trauma Press
10 Alice Street
Binghamton, New York 13904-1580
1-800-429-6784
Co-published as Journal of Emotional Abuse, 3, (1/2) (3/4)
Price: $39.95 Soft; $59.95 Hard

Domestic violence has been a fact in human life for as long as we know, at least since Cain murdered Abel.  Whatever the cause or the source, our society at present is making efforts to reduce it and build families where violence is unknown.  From that impetus, many efforts to find out facts about violence in families have been undertaken.

This arena is a highly emotional issue and there is much passion evoked by both the conviction that domestic violence is terribly destructive and the fear of intervention by the state and further erosion of the rights of families and their civil freedoms.

A book that calmly and objectively assessed the facts that can be based on good science would be an invaluable aid in finding a way through the maze of claims, counterclaims, fears, and anxieties.  Unfortunately, this book does not meet that standard.  Instead, it represents a biased and prejudiced approach to the reality of domestic violence that does not offer factual information but rather endorsement of a limited and erroneous position on what is known about domestic violence.

The first indication of this bias is in the Introduction in the discussion of forensic issues and the statements made about the Parental Alienation Syndrome.  The initial attacks on this concept made too much of the use of the word syndrome.  A syndrome is any group of behaviors or observations which are associated and thought to have an identifiable origin.  Since the concept was described by Gardner there has been significant research which supports the concept as a taxon.1  This development is ignored by the editors.  Instead, the concept is labeled junk science and presented as a method used to attack women and favor abusers.

The chapter by Schaffer and Bala presents Canadian jurisprudence as an example of a justice system that falls for junk science and ignores the plight of women who are abused or whose children are abused.  This is an arrogant and ill-founded attack on the integrity and motivations of judges and juries.  To confidently assert that finders of fact who heard all the evidence have some sort of conspiracy going to support evil and wickedness goes too far.

A third problem with the book is the failure to use the best and most widely accepted scientific quantitative methods to assess research evidence.  The chapter by Onyskiw purports to be a review of the research.  However, it does not use meta-analysis to review relevant research studies but rather relies on a subjective evaluation of the 47 studies included in the review.  Meta- analysis is recognized as the best and most useful way to evaluate the meaning and import of a given body of independent research studies.2  Relying upon qualitative review methods is less than accepted scientific procedures and standards of competent scientific work.  The remaining chapters are reports of research studies that are questionable in terms of design and quality.

This book is of value only to those who already have a biased and ideological approach to domestic violence and seek affirmation of their position.

Reviewed by Ralph Underwager, PhD,, Institute for Psychological Therapies.

1 Kelly, J. B. & Johnston, J. R. (2001). The Alienated child. Family Court Review, 39(3), 249- 266. (See whole issue)

2 Rosenthal, R., & DiMatteo, M. R. (200 I). Meta-analysis: Recent developments in quantitative methods and literature reviews. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 59-82.

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