Research assessing the effectiveness of intervention programs for intimate partner violence (IPV) perpetrators has increased considerably in recent years. However, most of it has been focused on the analysis of psychological domains, neglecting neuropsychological variables and the effects of alcohol consumption on these variables. This study evaluated potential neuropsychological changes (emotional decoding, perspective taking, emotional empathy and cognitive flexibility) and their relationship with alcohol consumption in a mandatory intervention program for IPV perpetrators, as well as how these variables affect the risk of IPV recidivism. The sample was composed of 116 individuals with high alcohol (n = 55; HA) and low alcohol (n = 61; LA) consumption according to self-report screening measures who received treatment in a IPV perpetrator intervention program developed in Valencia (Spain). IPV perpetrators with HA consumption were less accurate in decoding emotional facial signals and adopting others' perspective, and less cognitively flexible than those with LA consumption before the IPV intervention. Further, the effectiveness of the intervention program was demonstrated, with increases being observed in cognitive empathy (emotional decoding and perspective taking) and in cognitive flexibility. Nevertheless, the HA group showed a smaller improvement in these skills and higher risk of IPV recidivism than the LA group. Moreover, improvement in these skills was related to a lower risk of IPV recidivism. The study provides guidance on the targeting of cognitive domains, which are key factors for reducing IPV recidivism.
Keywords: cognitive flexibility; emotion decoding; empathy; intervention programs; intimate partner violence.