Domestic and Family Violence, Attachment and Complexity

Practice-Focused Concepts and Tools to Address Risk, Perpetration and Prevention.

Domestic violence is often complex: the intersection of multiple lives, histories and contexts. When it comes to prevention/intervention, this heterogeneity presents formidable challenges. When viewed from a few selected perspectives the evident complexity offers new opportunities. One promising approach to such complexity has been research into the identification of developmental pathways and risks associated with domestic violence (DV) and family violence (FV). Such an approach provides at least two benefits: (1) an understanding of antecedents and possible risk (sometimes causal ones via longitudinal studies) and (2) a model to comprehend complexity in current experience.

Attachment Theory has been increasingly employed in mental health and forensic research contexts to better understand risk and resilience. This is also increasingly the case with domestic violence. Attachment Theory has demonstrated evidence for differences in how people experience close relationships and engage emotions more generally. The seminar will therefore look at attachment and DV from multiple perspectives: childhood exposure to family trauma (including DV), intergenerational risks for violence in romantic relationships, considerations of gender and sexual orientation, within couple dynamics, as well as perpetrator and victim individually.

The seminar will present a survey of the latest research on risks for DV including both the attachment relationship level as well as the more general attachment styles of emotion regulation. Indeed, attachment anxiety would appear to be the most cited risk factor for DV. Why might this be the case will be elaborated. Equally, particular focus will be given to new insights into maladaptive ‘disorganization’ in romantic relationships, which may encompass the less secure responses including attachment anxiety but in a more chaotic volatile, disorganized manner. Participants will also be introduced to or provided a brief refresher on the expanding range of assessments and measurements—some now available on-line.

With concepts and tools in hand, the workshop will turn to a review of attachment informed preventions and interventions. First, light will be shown on how prevention work has been applied with children at intergenerational risk for violence—i.e., where violence between parents is present. Children’s attachments to parents have been shown to be correlated with their own disposition to violence. Hence intervention options as future prevention research will be highlighted. The workshop next turns to work with adults in the context of romantic relationships. Participants will gain an understanding of how attachment differences may play out in terms of risk and perpetration. Clarification of contraindications for couple treatment and differentiation of mutual violence will be addressed. Additionally, practical insights will be offered from attachment work with individuals as well as insights from attachment-informed couple therapy. [N.B. This seminar is not formal forensic training but rather is focused on expanding knowledge of the typical mental health to provide support and therapy for individuals and where appropriate for expanding couple interventions.


Key Details

  • Contact Hours: 7.0 hrs
  • Format: Lecture and Assessment
  • Duration: 1 Day
  • Compatibility: All Devices
  • Language: English


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