Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

May 2004Vol. 5, No. 4Treating Fathers Who Maltreat

A recent article in Clinical Psychology argues that the intervention needs of maltreating fathers are not met by traditional parenting programs, which may actually support some of the problematic attitudes and behaviors of the abusive fathers. "Effecting Change in Maltreating Fathers: Critical Principles for Intervention Planning" describes more appropriate intervention treatments that begin by targeting the motivations, accountability, and entitlement attitudes of abusive men, while leaving skills development and parenting support for later in the process.

The article draws on literature on parenting, child abuse, promoting change, and treating batterers in order to construct principles to guide intervention with maltreating fathers. These include:

  • Given that maltreating fathers tend to be characterized by a sense of entitlement, self-centeredness, and need for control, initial intervention should focus on changing those attitudes, rather than on providing child management skills that may actually enhance the father's sense of control.
  • Abusive fathers often have little motivation to change; thus, treatment needs to focus on acceptance of this need.
  • Men's violent or hostile treatment of their children's mothers should be a significant component in treatment.
  • The damaged emotional security of abused children must be taken into account as (formerly) abusive fathers attempt to rebuild relationships.

The overarching theme of this approach is to focus on changing attitudes before attempting to enhance skills, and on transforming a self-centered perspective into a child-centered perspective. Implications for providing these types of intervention services are discussed. To date, two treatment programs for maltreating fathers, including the Emerge program in Boston (see, have been developed around these principles.

To view the abstract of this article or purchase the full text, visit the Clinical Psychology website at

Related Items

The same issue of Clinical Psychology carries two additional articles on maltreating fathers: