The ASWB exam content outline walk-through continues. This time: The characteristics of perpetrators of abuse, neglect, and exploitation. You probably have a good sense of this without reading up. But let's explore.

The Characteristics

Understanding these characteristics can help identify potential perpetrators and develop preventive measures. It's crucial to recognize that not everyone with these characteristics engages in abusive behavior, and the presence of these traits does not necessarily predict abusive actions. 

  • Lack of Empathy

    • Perpetrators may demonstrate a lack of empathy or understanding of the feelings and needs of others, especially the vulnerable or dependent individuals they are responsible for.
  • Control Issues:

    • Perpetrators often seek to exert control over their victims, whether through emotional manipulation, physical force, or financial control.
  • History of Abuse

    • Individuals who have experienced abuse themselves may be more likely to become perpetrators. However, it's important to note that not all victims of abuse become abusers.
  • Substance Abuse

    • Substance abuse issues can contribute to abusive behavior. Drug or alcohol dependence may impair judgment and increase the likelihood of violent or neglectful actions.
  • Mental Health Disorders

    • This is one to be careful with, of course--it's potentially stigmatizing. But certain mental health disorders, such as personality disorders or impulse control disorders, may be associated with abusive behavior. 
  • Isolation

    • Perpetrators may isolate from friends, family, or support networks--and may attempt to isolate their victims, making it harder for the victims to seek help or escape the abusive situation.
  • Low Self-Esteem

    • Perpetrators may have low self-esteem, and abusing others can be a way for them to exert power and control to compensate for their own insecurities.
  • Financial Exploitation

    • Perpetrators may exploit their victims financially, taking advantage of their resources or manipulating them into giving up control of their finances.
  • Patterns of Aggression

    • Perpetrators may have a history of aggressive behavior, whether physical, verbal, or emotional. This aggression can be directed towards family members, intimate partners, or vulnerable individuals.

Additionally, men are far more likely than women to be perpetrators of certain types of abuse and exploitation. Googling will get you the most recent statistics.

In the DSM

First, let's not get into stigmatizing mental illness. Just because someone has one of these diagnoses doesn't make them a perpetrator of abuse, neglect, and exploitation--not by a long shot. Most abusive behavior is a result of complex interactions involving various factors. Here are some mental health diagnoses that may be seen, in some cases, in those perpetrating abuse:

  • Personality Disorders

    • Certain personality disorders, such as antisocial personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder, have been associated with an increased likelihood of engaging in abusive behavior.
  • Substance Use Disorders

    • Individuals struggling with substance abuse or dependence may be at a higher risk of engaging in abusive actions due to impaired judgment, altered perceptions, and a greater likelihood of impulsive behavior.
  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder

    • This disorder is characterized by impulsive aggression, verbal or physical, that is out of proportion to the situation. Individuals with intermittent explosive disorder may struggle to control aggressive impulses, leading to abusive behavior.
  • Conduct Disorder

    • While typically diagnosed in adolescence, individuals with a history of conduct disorder may be at an increased risk of engaging in abusive behavior.
  • Trauma-Related Disorders:

    • Individuals who have experienced trauma, particularly if left untreated, may be at an increased risk of perpetrating abuse. Trauma can impact emotional regulation and interpersonal relationships.

On the Exam

ASWB exam questions on this topic may look something like this:

  • Which of the following characteristics is commonly associated with perpetrators of abuse, neglect, and exploitation?
  • Which mental health diagnosis has been linked to individuals who may exhibit a lack of empathy and an inflated sense of self-importance, potentially contributing to abusive behavior in interpersonal relationships?
  • Why might individuals with substance use disorders be at an increased risk of engaging in abusive behavior?

The characteristics are above. Know the answer to the other two? The diagnosis is NPD. Altered perceptions and impulsive behavior increase the risk of abusive behavior with substance abuse.

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Take Me There.

February 5, 2024
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