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Role of Alcohol in Wife Beating and Child Abuse - A Review of the Literature (From Drinking and Crime, P 253-287, 1981, James J Collins, Jr, ed. - See NCJ-87749)

NCJ Number
C J Hamilton; J J Collins
Date Published
35 pages
Although studies suggest that alcohol use is sometimes causally relevant to family violence, little can be confidently said about how alcohol exerts its influence on such behavior.
Estimates of the percentage of family violence incidents where alcohol was used prior to or during the event range from 6 percent to 67 percent. This percentage tends to be lower for child abuse than wife beating, with the percentage of child abuse incidents where alcohol was used being less than 20 percent and the wife abuse cases being between 25 and 50 percent. Data indicate that both husbands who abuse their wives and caretakers who abuse their children are more likely than the general population to be alcohol abusers. This conclusion is based on an estimate 5 to 10 percent of the general population has a serious drinking problem. Alcoholism is more likely to characterize wife abusers than child abusers. The association between rates of family violence and drinking level appears to be curvilinear. The lowest abuse rates are found among those who drink least, while the highest rates are found among moderate to heavy drinkers. Theoretical interpretation of the relationship between alcohol use and family violence is virtually nonexistent in the studies reviewed; however, most of the researchers view alcohol abuse as a form of deviance or personal pathology in mental or social functioning which in some way contributed to the etiology or perpetuation of abusive behavior. Some researchers argue that alcohol use plays no significant role in family violence. Tabular data are provided.