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Does Alcohol Make a Difference?: Within-Participants Comparison of Incidents of Partner Violence

NCJ Number
Journal of Interpersonal Violence Volume: 18 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2008 Pages: 735-743
Maria Testa; Brian M. Quigley; Kenneth E. Leonard
Date Published
July 2003
9 pages
This study compared incidents of intoxicated husband aggression with incidents of sober aggression that were reported by the same individual.
The results suggested that episodes of marital violence in which the husband is drinking may be more severe than episodes perpetrated by the same husbands when sober. Specifically, wives reported that violent episodes in which the husbands were drinking involved more acts of husband aggression and a greater likelihood of severe violence than episodes in which they were not drinking. Differences in severity were not apparent in husbands' reports, however. There are several possible explanations for the discrepancy between husband and wife data. Wives may have perceived alcohol-related incidents as more severe because of preexisting beliefs about the impact of alcohol on violence. However, no relationship between wives' aggression-related alcohol expectancies and their reports of either of the severity or number of violent acts within the alcohol-related incident were found. Additionally, men tend to underreport violence, particularly severe violence, relative to women. Although all men in the sample admitted to perpetrating violence, data suggest that they may have downplayed the severity, making it more difficult to detect a difference between intoxicated and sober episodes of violence. The difference in the pattern of results may reflect actual differences in the incidences that were reported by husbands and wives. Few couples agreed as to the types of events that occurred, a finding consistent with studies showing poor partner agreement regarding specific violent acts. Husband and wife reports were in agreement regarding the greater likelihood of mutual aggression occurring in violent incidents involving alcohol compared to sober incidents, suggesting a process of violence escalation in the presence of alcohol. However, whereas husbands reported that wives became violent first, wives reported that their own aggression was a response to husband aggression. Notes, references