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Multisystemic Therapy for Intimate Partner Violence (MST-IPV): A Pilot Study of Families Involved with the Child Protective Service System Due to Child Maltreatment

Project Description

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a common problem among families served by Child Protection globally, for which few comprehensive or evidence-based interventions exist. In understanding the treatment needs of families experiencing IPV, it is important to consider studies on the etiology and phenomenology of IPV.

Studies show that risk factors for IPV exist across multiple systems, including the individual, couple, child, and social network, with the most common risk factor being parental substance abuse. Phenomenologically, research suggests that 40-60% of IPV cases do not fit a classic perpetrator-victim pattern, but instead involve mutual partner violence. In addition, separation rates among couples experiencing IPV are the same as those for couples whose relationships do not involve violence, suggesting that interventions are needed that can help partners maintain their relationship without violence.

A new home- and family-based treatment model, MST-IPV, is being evaluated in a quasi-experimental pilot study taking place with child welfare-system involved families in New Britain, CT. MST-IPV uses conjoint couples therapy and other evidence-based interventions individualized to family needs (e.g., behavioral substance abuse treatment, exposure treatment for trauma symptoms) to comprehensively address the risk factors for IPV that are operative within a given family. The goals of treatment are to help partners interact safely, either while staying together or while maintaining an effective co-parenting relationship post-separation.

Partners/Funding Source

Annie E. Casey Foundation

Connecticut Department of Children and Families (CT DCF)

Project Staff

Cindy Schaeffer, PhD
University of Maryland, Baltimore

Cynthia C. Swenson, PhD
Medical University of South Carolina

For More Information

To learn more about MST-IPV or the study, contact:

Dr. Cindy Schaeffer