THE ROLE OF FACIAL EMOTION RECOGNITION ABILITIES IN INTIMATE PARTNER VIOLENCE PERPETRATION
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Interpreting facial affects is a key aspect in everyday human interaction and intimate partner relationships. Being unable to accurately recognize facial expressions may prompt an inappropriate reaction from the viewer. Limited literature suggests perpetrators of intimate partner violence are less able to accurately recognize facial expressions. The previous body of literature regarding facial affect recognition (FAR) abilities in intimate partner violence failed to take into account the role empathy and emotion regulation play in the relationship between intimate partner violence and FAR abilities. In addition, prior studies investigated these differences in primarily White Non-Hispanic individuals limiting the generalizability of their findings across cultural domains. The current study investigated whether FAR abilities, empathy, and emotion regulation differed between the non-violent control group and the experimental group comprised of individuals court mandated to attend a Batterer Intervention and Prevention Program (BIPP) as well as subgroups of perpetrators. In addition, the moderating role of empathy and emotion regulation in the relationship between FAR deficits and perpetration of IPV was assessed. The sample in the current study consisted of 59 heterosexual men comprised of 30 perpetrators of IPV and 29 nonaggressive control participants collected from a predominantly Hispanic region. Differing abilities in the recognition of fear were found between the differing samples with the experimental group being less able to identify facial expressions of fear in females. When assessing subtypes of perpetrators, those who perpetrated severe levels of violence against their partner were found to make more mistakes in identifying male expressions of sadness as compared to those who perpetrated minor levels of abuse. Further, exploratory analysis revealed perpetrators of severe IPV received lower scores in the total facial recognition measure, total female expression score, female fear, negative’ expressions overall, and the female ‘negative’ cluster as compared to nonviolent control group indicating the deficits in FAR abilities were more pronounced when investigating those who perpetrated severe levels of IPV in contrast to comparing the nonviolent group with perpetrators of IPV overall. In addition, impulse control, a subscale of the emotion regulation measure, was found to be significantly different between the experimental and control group as the experimental sample endorsed more difficulties in this area. Neither of the subscales in an empathy measure were found to be significantly different between the experimental and control group, although differences were found when comparing a subset of the empathy measure, empathetic concern, between the severe IPV to the control group. Finally, neither empathy nor emotion regulation were found to moderate the relationship between FAR abilities and IPV perpetration. The findings of the current study add to the growing body of literature of factors related to IPV perpetration and socialization.