The Proximal Effect of Alcohol on Intimate Partner Violence



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Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a concerning public health problem in the United States. There has been consistent evidence for a positive association between alcohol use and IPV perpetration. However, relatively little research has been conducted to explore the proximal relation between alcohol use and IPV and how violent incidents differ depending on whether alcohol was involved or not. The current study used sequential analysis to examine women’s descriptions of violent incidents and explore the particular types of behaviors or events that preceded men’s perpetration of IPV. In accordance with the attention-allocation model (AAM) of alcohol use (Steele, Southwick, & Pagano, 1986), it was hypothesized that intoxicated men would respond violently to a wide range of partner cues, whereas men who were sober would only react violently in response to the most threatening partner cues. Moreover, intoxicated men were expected to demonstrate less inhibition of violence to suppressor cues of the partners’ distress as compared to sober men. Participants were 80 couples in which at least one partner reported some male-to-female IPV within the past year. While sober men were more likely than would be expected based on chance to react violently to their partner’s physical threat (z = 4.86, p < .001) and perceived threat (z = 2.26, p = .024) behavior, these behaviors were not significantly predictive of violence for intoxicated men. Sober men were less likely to become violent after their partners displayed distress cues (z = -2.35, p = .019), whereas women’s distress cues had no significant impact on intoxicated men’s perpetration of violence. Clinical implications are discussed.



Intimate partner violence, Alcohol use