The Effects of Cognitive and Affective Empathy Deficits on Intimate Partner Violence Perpetrators



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This study attempted to extend findings on both borderline personality and Factor 1 psychopathy and intimate partner violence (IPV). Theory and research suggest that borderline personality is marked by psychophysiological hyperreactivity whereas psychopathy is related to psychophysiological hyporeactivity. As such, this study also sought to identify psychophysiological hyperreactivity in individuals with borderline personality and psychophysiological hyporeactivity in individuals with Factor 1 psychopathy. Cognitive and affective empathy were presented in order to observe how associated deficits influence how men with borderline personality or Factor 1 psychopathy experience psychophysiological reactivity and perpetrate IPV. Borderline personality was positively related to IPV, whereas Factor 1 psychopathy was not. Neither borderline personality nor Factor 1 psychopathy was directly related to psychophysiological reactivity. However, multiple regressions revealed that cognitive empathy moderated the relation between borderline personality and psychophysiological reactivity. Individuals high in cognitive empathy showed a positive relation between borderline personality and psychophysiological reactivity and individuals low in cognitive empathy showed a negative relation. Affective empathy moderated the relation between Factor 1 psychopathy and psychophysiological reactivity. When Factor 1 psychopathy was low, individuals showed psychophysiological hyperreactivity if affective empathy was high but hyporeactivity if affective empathy was low. This dichotomy diminished when Factor 1 psychopathy was high. Empathy did not moderate relations involving IPV. Clinically, understanding empathy deficits is needed to integrate tools for resolving conflict, coping with heightened arousal, and decreasing violence.



Intimate partner violence, Borderline Personality Disorder, Factor 1 psychopathy, Empathy