The connection between alcohol consumption and domestic violence is one of vital importance in society. Modern culture has found a way to solve many of society’s ills, but the dangers that women and children face from the men in their lives are still all too real. The articles under consideration in this paper look at the correlations between intoxication and domestic violence. The methodologies and studies have similarities and differences with implications on their outcomes. However, the general purpose of both is to look for connections that social planners and public health planners can use to improve public education and treatment programs, in order to greatly reduce, if not eliminate, this problem from society.
Christopher Eckhardt, at Purdue University, published a study in 2007 entitled “Effects of Alcohol Intoxication on Anger Experience and Expression among Partner Assaultive Men.” In general terms, the investigation tracked the acute impact that intoxication had on the experience and expression of anger among 56 maritally nonviolent men and 46 maritally violent men. All subjects received a random assignment of actual alcohol, placebo, or no alcohol at all. Respondents completed a paradigm that hypothesized anger-arousing articulated thoughts in simulated situations (ATSS) as well as imagined scenarios of marital conflicts. Anger expression received measurement as verbalizations of aggression verbalizations and anger statements, and anger experience was measured through subjective anger ratings during the ATSS process. In general, maritally violent men who received alcohol expressed significantly more verbalizations of aggression than any of the other groups, and increased anger experienced and high trait anger also predicted more verbalizations of aggression. The independent variable was the level of alcohol consumption. The dependent variables were the subjective anger ratings and the statements given during and after the ATSS paradigm (Eckhardt 14).As a result, the researcher concluded that alcohol may have proximal effects on abusive types of behavior among those individuals who are already more likely to use elevated anger to respond to situations with conflict (Eckhardt 1).
This particular study was a correlation. The first hypothesis predicted that the maritally violent men who received alcohol would receive significantly higher scores than the men in the other groups after ATSS anger experience (Eckhardt 11). This hypothesis was supported through ANCOVA analysis (Eckhardt 13). The second hypothesis was that men who were maritally violent and received alcohol would show higher anger experience levels during the ATSS anger arousal experience than violent men who either got the placebo or knew they were not getting alcohol (Eckhardt 14). This hypothesis was not supported, as alcohol did not have a main effect during the process of laboratory anger arousal (Eckhardt 14). The third hypothesis was that maritally violent men would express fewer statements of specific anger than nonviolent men, when alcohol was involved for both groups, was not supported (Eckhardt 14). The theory behind this was that the violent men were suppressing their anger rather than releasing it in a healthy way, setting the stage for violence.
The sample (a total of 102 men, taken from both maritally violent and non-violent groups) is representative. The difficulty of identifying those sorts of groups accurately is the most glaring limitation of this sampling. While it would be easier to verify marital violence through incident reports and spouse interviews, for those reporting as nonviolent, there could be underreporting of violence. Because this is a correlation experiment, and because of the different conditions that apply in the project, there are no experimental and control groups.
The findings appeared to be valid, given the evidence that supported the first hypothesis. For example, the researcher found support that some violent spouses have a possibility of having difficulties with regulating their emotions as well as processing social information, with alcoholic intoxication impairing both of those processes (Eckhardt 14). An interesting implication drawn from the research was the idea that further research should look out how affective and cognitive risk factors for violence interact with antisocial traits to keep the violent respondents from overcoming their inhibitions and actually engaging in that violence (Eckhardt 14). Another interesting implication was the importance of differentiating between expressive and experiential aspects of anger – in other words, exploring that filter that goes between feeling anger and letting that anger out in expression (Eckhardt 14).
Casey Taft and other researchers at Harvard Medical School published a study entitled “Longitudinal Risk Factors for Intimate Partner Violence Among Men in Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorders” in 2010. This study analyzed 178 men, all of whom had received a diagnosis of alcohol dependence or abuse, and their partners, for the purpose of finding time-varying and static risk factors for the perpetration of intimate partner violence. The study included the completion of self- and partner-reporting assessments about the severity of the alcohol problem, intrinsic beliefs about alcohol use, existing drug and alcohol use, relationship changes, antisocial traits as well as ongoing violence. At the beginning of the survey, 42 percent of respondents had engaged in violence; this increased to 43 percent at six months but dropped to 36 percent at a year. The predictors of new and recurring violence included severity of the alcohol problem, prior beliefs about use of alcohol, and antisocial traits. Drug and alcohol use, relationship changes and anger were only variable predictors. The findings indicated that it is important to monitor and assess the occurrence of violence by both partners to help men in treatment for alcohol abuse to manage their levels of violence (Taft et al.).
The sample patients came from four different treatment programs for substance abuse in Massachusetts, from three different professional treatment care levels. To be eligible, the men had to either be married or living with a partner for at least the past year, without a separation of more than four months during that year, were living together at the time of the baseline assessment, were not currently planning to separate or divorce, and had been diagnosed with current alcohol dependence or abuse according to the Structured Clinical Interview for the DSM-IV (Taft et al.). The male had to have had alcohol during the 30 days before entering treatment, both partners had to be between the ages of 18 and 64, and both partners had to consent to take part in the study.
The first hypothesis for this correlation was that all of the correlates, both fixed and variable, were expected to show significant connections with the perpetration of violence at the baseline assessments. The second hypothesis was that reduced consumption of alcohol would result in reduced incidence of violence for all participants, based on prior research and the fact that all of the male participants had begun standard treatment for alcohol use.
The partners were interviewed at the same time but in different places to secure confidentiality and to keep the partners from discussing answers with one another. Initial alcohol problem, antisocial characteristics, and intrinsic beliefs at baseline were assessed using accepted assessments, such as the Alcohol Dependence Scale, the Alcohol Use Inventory, the Inventory of Drinking Situations, the California Personality Inventory Socialization Scale and the Situational Confidence Questionnaire (Taft et al.). These measures give the findings some validity. Generally, the researchers found that there is a connection between alcohol abuse and violence and a possible connection between alcohol treatment and reduced incidence of violence. The amount of aggressive behavior that continued to take place during the treatment, though, indicated that alcohol may not be the only factor in incidence of violence (Taft et al.).
Both articles use accepted methodologies in pursuing their findings. The Taft article pursued findings that were more intuitive than the Eckhardt study. The research in place indicating a connection between alcohol abuse and violence was already well documented in the Taft literature review. For that study to emerge with the findings that alcohol treatment might help reduce violence, but that other factors may also be involved, is already supported by much of the literature that Taft cites, so this study breaks little ground. The Eckhardt study goes much further, in terms of identifying important implications for further research, as well as examining the more complex factors that go into intimate partner violence. Because there is already so much documentation of a connection between alcohol and violence, the better emphasis for further research is to figure out what factors remain once alcohol is taken out of the situation.
Eckhardt, Christopher. “Effects of Alcohol Intoxication Anger Experience and Expression Among Partner Assaultive Men.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 75(1): 61-71.
Taft, Casey, O’Farrell, Timothy, Doron-Lamarca, Susan, Panuzio, Jillian, Suvak, Michael, Gagnon, David, and Murphy, Christopher. “Longitudinal Risk Factors for Intimate Partner Violence Among Men in Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorders.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 78(6): 924-935.