Law and Human Behavior

, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 253-271

First online:

Identifying Three Types of Violent Offenders and Predicting Violent Recidivism While on Probation: A Classification Tree Analysis

  • Loretta J. StalansAffiliated withLoyola University Chicago
  • , Paul R. YarnoldAffiliated withNorthwestern University Medical School
  • , Magnus SengAffiliated withLoyola University Chicago
  • , David E. OlsonAffiliated withLoyola University Chicago
  • , Michelle ReppAffiliated withIllinois Criminal Justice Information Authority


This study employs classification tree analysis (CTA) to address whether 3 groups of violent offenders have similar or different risk factors for violent recidivism while on probation. A sample of 1,344 violent offenders on probation was classified as generalized aggressors (N = 302), family only aggressors (N = 321), or nonfamily only aggressors (N = 717). The strongest predictor of violent recidivism while on probation was whether the offender was a generalized aggressor or not, with generalized aggressors more likely to be arrested for new violent crimes. Prior arrests for violent crimes predicted violent recidivism of generalized aggressors, but did not significantly predict violent recidivism of family only and nonfamily only aggressors. For generalized aggressors and family only batterers, treatment noncompliance was an important risk predictor of violent recidivism. CTA compared to logistic regression classified a higher percentage of cases into low-risk and high-risk groups, provided higher improvement in classification accuracy of violent recidivists beyond chance performance, and provided a better balance of false positives and false negatives. The implications for the risk assessment and domestic violence literature are discussed.